With today’s fifth iOS 11 beta Apple has changed the behaviour of the blue bar that showed up whenever an app was accessing your location in the background. This made it obvious to users that some apps might be doing nefarious things in the background without them previously knowing about it. But apparently Apple didn’t like the blue bar and changed the way it works.
Big reversal in iOS11b5 – *devs* can now control showing location update indicator, off by default (iOS10 behavior). pic.twitter.com/lDXZpCtRgb
— Curtis Herbert (@parrots) August 7, 2017
The developers can now decide whether or not they want to show the bar or not (if the app is in AlwaysInUse mode), negating the effect the previous impelementation had: telling users about potentially bad developers. Apps that have WhenInUse enabled will still show blue bar, which is helpful for navigation apps, because it gives easy access back to the app when you switch apps.
It’s currently not clear as to why Apple moved back from the previous four beta releases. One theory is that developers don’t test enough with the blue bar showing and breaking the app layout in the process if the bar is pushing down the content. At the same time there were some other issues with the bar showing, like removing quick access to the top of a document, list view or website.
This blue shame bar aside iOS 11 brings a few nice additions to the location privacy. Up until iOS 10 apps could optionally support the WhenInUse flag to access a users location. Starting with iOS 11 devs have to support all three settings: Off, When In Use and Always. It’s no longer just black or white for developers that didn’t want to support WhenInUse. (I’m looking at you, Uber.) Users now have a better option at their disposal to block apps’ access to their location.