Apple to Limit Third-Party Messaging Apps on iOS

Posted on August 7, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS, Mobile with 17 Comments

According to a new report, Apple will limit what third messaging party apps can do in the background on its mobile platform.

“Apple is taking a swipe at Facebook and other messaging apps by making a small but significant change to its mobile operating system,” The Information reports. “The change will restrict a feature that apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp use to make voice calls over the internet.”

In the current version of iOS, VoIP-based messaging apps run in the background so that they can retrieve new messages and connect calls more quickly. But in iOS 13, these apps will only be allowed to run in the background during VoIP calls.

Apple is presenting the change as being privacy-friendly: In addition to messaging and call-related functions, these apps can collect data while running in the background too. And some apps—most notably Facebook WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SnapChat, and WeChat—collect so much data that they sap the iPhone’s battery life egregiously.

Facebook has denied using background processing for data collection.

“The changes to the upcoming iOS releases are not insignificant, but we are in conversations with Apple on how best to address,” a Facebook statement reads. “To be clear, we are using the PushKit VoIP API to deliver a world-class, private messaging experience, not for the purpose of collecting data.”

Regardless, the change is expected to dramatically impact those apps that do rely on Apple’s VoIP technology to connect Internet-based calls. And while the change goes into effect in September with the release of iOS 13, these apps will have until April 2020 to comply.

With Apple, of course, one must always question the motive, especially since its iMessage service competes with these apps. This change is certainly privacy-friendly and should help with battery life. But why can’t Apple simply restrict unnecessary data collection via its VoIP APIs?

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