With iOS 16.1.1, Apple has limited the window during which iPhone users can receive AirDrop files from non-contacts in China. The move comes after Chinese protesters used AirDrop to spread anti-government images to other iPhone users.
Currently, you can accept AirDrop from iPhone users not in your phonebook for 10 minutes. After that, your phone will only remain discoverable to your contacts.
Apple limits AirDrop’s visibility to 10-minute for non-contacts
For now, the 10-minute window limit is only for iPhones sold in China. However, a Bloomberg report claims Apple intends to change this behavior globally next year. The 10-minute restriction is also a part of iOS 16.2 beta 2 that dropped earlier this week.
AirDrop allows iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to seamlessly transfer files between devices. So far, the feature has worked on all Apple devices without any additional steps. This tweak in AirDrop’s discoverability will change that. iPhone users will have to manually turn AirDrop on before they can accept files from other Apple users who are not in their phonebook.
There was no announcement from Apple about this change, including in the official iOS 16.1.1 release notes. That only talks about bug fixes and security updates.
The change could make AirDrop safer to use
While an added step, it should make AirDrop safer and prevent users with malicious intent from discreetly sharing files with other non-suspecting iPhone owners. When needed, you can quickly change AirDrop’s visibility to everyone from your iPhone’s Control Center.
It could be that the Cupertino giant made this change following pressure from the Chinese leadership. This is not the first time the iPhone maker has tweaked an iOS setting or behavior to benefit or please the Chinese government.