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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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Apple to Limit Third-Party Messaging Apps on iOS”

  1. Avatar

    legend

    “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.”


    yeah, i'm sure you are not abusing it ?

  2. Avatar

    rosyna

    But why can’t Apple simply restrict unnecessary data collection via its VoIP APIs?


    I think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. Previously, apps would register a background mode under the VoIP allowance (a “Voice over IP” checkbox in Xcode). When running in the background like this, the APIs you can call aren’t limited.


    Because of this rather large hole and abuse by some developers, Apple released the PushKit APIs in iOS 8.0 and added the VoIP type to PushKit in iOS 9.0.


    The apps that use background modes instead of PushKit have had multiple years to transition to PushKit. PushKit effectively limits the APIs you can call in the background because your app isn’t running in the background in the first place…

  3. Avatar

    evox81

    If I'm understanding this correctly, this will make WhatsApp and Messenger basically useless on the iPhone. If they aren't running, they won't receive messages or calls. So they would be entirely dependent on users constantly opening them to check for new messages.

  4. Avatar

    MikeGalos

    Not only does Apple's iMessage compete in the VoIP space but VoIP itself is also a competitor for the carrier services that partner with Apple. You have to wonder if Apple is feeling some pressure to limit VoIP itself especially in the China market.

  5. Avatar

    solomonrex

    Facebook's app on every platform drains the battery and sends tons of data. There's no downside here.

  6. Avatar

    christian.hvid

    "With Apple, of course, one must always question the motive, especially since its iMessage service competes with these apps."


    Apple needs to be careful here. Unless they stop giving their own apps and services an unfair advantage over competitors, I have no doubt that President Warren will move to break up the company in 2021.

  7. Avatar

    djross95

    Does iMessage have the same restrictions? If so, then I'm all for this. There's too much data collection going on, especially by the Facebook trio.

  8. Avatar

    mattbg

    "Facebook has denied using background processing for data collection."


    For some reason, I found this really funny...

  9. Avatar

    wright_is

    With Apple, of course, one must always question the motive, especially since its iMessage service competes with these apps.

    Yeah, um, no. iMessage doesn't compete with these apps, because iMessage is only available on the iPhone, all of the others you mention are cross-platform.

    Given the iPhone's 16-18% market share, that is a huge drawback to iMessage.

  10. Avatar

    IanYates82

    Can't they at least give users the choice of allowing the apps to still run in the background?

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