A new report today from The Information details a change coming with iOS 13 that will force WhatsApp and others to redesign their messaging apps. The small but notable change has to do with how third-party apps use iOS to make internet voice calls with the PushKit VoIP API and also run in the background which will be restricted come this fall.
Apple has been under pressure in recent months to restrict what access third-party apps can have to a user’s iPhone and data. This latest move by Apple to increase user privacy and security detailed by The Information highlights that the change will restrict apps like Facebook and WhatsApp from being able to run the internet call API in the background.
Right now, the calling feature in these apps runs in the background even when it’s not in use, ensuring the apps can connect calls faster but also making it possible for them to perform other, unrelated tasks such as collecting data. Now, Apple is restricting that background access so that it can only be used for internet calls.
Sources for The Information said that WhatsApp has been using the PushKit VoIP API to handle its end-to-end encryption so it may have the most work to do ahead of iOS 13 launching with the new restriction. Other apps that have been using the internet calling feature may have to redesign their apps as well.
It may have a particularly heavy impact on WhatsApp, which has been using the internet calling feature in a variety of ways, including for implementing the app’s end-to-end encryption, the people said. Other messaging app developers, who have long relied on the internet calling feature to keep their apps running in the background on Apple mobile devices, will also have to rebuild their apps, said people familiar with the issue.
Apple didn’t comment on the matter, but Facebook told The Information that the change wasn’t a big deal and that it wasn’t collecting data while the API runs in the background.
“The changes to the upcoming iOS releases are not insignificant, but we are in conversations with Apple on how best to address,” the spokesperson said. “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.”
However, Apple’s former App Store review chief, Phillip Shoemaker, shared concerns about how Facebook could have been or still is using the background app access.
“Messenger can still use [VoIP background] mode, and does,” said Mr. Shoemaker. “What they do in the background, whether it be accept calls, listen in all the time or update the content of the main app, it’s all unclear to Apple, but could be happening.”
Shoemaker also noted that Facebook tried to keep the PushKit API in its main app when the company split off Messenger as a standalone app in 2014. When Apple caught on, it made Facebook remove the API.
Read the full report from The Information here.