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Most messaging apps with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) functionality are set to remain “always on”. Running in the background enables them to reply to calls faster. Apple has, however, now decided to put an end to that practice.
According to The Information, Apple will implement the change with the upcoming version of its mobile operating system. With the launch of iOS 13, the company will start placing restrictions on the ability of apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to run background processes.
There are many reasons for this decision, among them user privacy and device performance. Restricting an app’s ability to run background processes should help boost battery life, and it should also have a positive effect on performance.
There is also a third and even more important reason, which is related to what apps are doing on your phone while you think they are closed. In the past, many people have expressed concern over the possibility that developers might use apps running in the background to collect private data – and some were in fact caught doing exactly that.
For example, a few years ago, it became known that Facebook was abusing its VoIP privileges in the iOS app in order to keep running in the background, despite permissions being disabled. The company had then already launched the Messenger app, which didn’t even require VoIP to work.
Not only Facebook and WhatsApp will be affected, but also other apps such as WeChat and Snapchat. WhatsApp will be particularly badly affected. Insiders say that its end-to-end encryption (and some other features) depend on running background processes.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, the firm is “using the PushKit VoIP API to deliver a world-class, private messaging experience, not for the purpose of collecting data”.
Apple has given developers until April next year to make the necessary changes to their apps. After that, they could be deleted from the App Store.