Today, Apple released the latest version of its most popular operating system, iOS (as well as the re-branded iPadOS), to hundreds of millions of customers worldwide. The 13th generation of iPhone and iPad software may seem incremental at first, but if you dig deeper there are some notable changes that may impact your app and business.
Our work spans industries and it’s important for our clients to stay abreast of these changes. Below I’ve compiled a list of the three changes in iOS 13 that product folks, marketers, and technologists need to pay attention to.
Apple has a long history of a privacy-first ecosystem, and iOS 13 is no exception. Apple builds on this foundation with three new changes (two I’ll touch on here and one I’ll cover later) that will likely impact your customer experience.
The first is prompting for Bluetooth access. Prior to iOS 13, apps could get access to your Bluetooth stack and look for iBeacons and other Bluetooth signatures without your explicit permission. This sort of passive location monitoring was included in many SDKs (software development kits that app developers integrated) that were able to figure out your location based on the Bluetooth devices you were passing. Unfortunately, a lot of apps look for this sort of information, and I’m sure we’ll see a flurry of complaints in the coming days.
Domino’s, I love your pizza, but you do not need to know when I am in my car driving home from work.
What this means for you: Make sure your app or any SDK that your app uses does not require Bluetooth unless you absolutely need it. If you need it, make sure to ask your customers nicely with a well-articulated prompt at an appropriate moment (i.e. after I receive my pizza, not before!). Once you have my trust I’ll be okay with you sending push notifications to me at seemingly the exact moment on Friday when I’m commuting home and probably want to order a pizza.
Apple is also changing the way apps request other private information such as Location Services for GPS. The new Location Services prompt includes a new “Allow Once” option so that your customers can choose to only grant access to their GPS location once. This may mean customers are more willing to give you temporary access to their location, but keep in mind that access to Location Services will expire shortly and can’t be relied upon in the future.
But the bigger change to iOS 13 is that after a few days of usage, iOS will let you know which apps have been accessing your location in the background and will even show you dots on a map of how your location is being tracked. Here, you can see that the Tile app was very aware of my recent trip to New York City!
I must admit, it’s a very effective prompt and plays into some psychological triggers that will likely have most folks disabling GPS access.
So, why does this matter? If you need background location access for your app to work, you need to do a fantastic job of messaging this particular need and you might want to prompt people to let them know you are tracking them in the background. You might consider sending a push notification like this: “Just a reminder, with your permission we’re tracking your location in the background. This is vital for the app and service you love to continue to work.” Full disclosure, I am not a copy editor. And if your app only needs location access at particular times, consider limiting your requested Location Access permission to “Only While Using.”
Sign In with Apple
Earlier this year, Apple announced a new option for apps to let customers sign in easily and securely. Apple spent a lot of time and money crafting and refining this initial description, so I’ll just include it here:
“Sign in with Apple makes it easy for users to sign in to your apps and websites using their Apple ID. Instead of filling out forms, verifying email addresses, and choosing new passwords, they can use Sign in with Apple to set up an account and start using your app right away.”
So, why does this matter? Isn’t this just another sign in feature with ______ service? Nope! Remember how I wrote about Apple promoting a privacy-first ecosystem? Well, that is exactly what they are doing here because customers that choose to sign in with Apple are not required to share their personal email address or any identifying information with the app they are joining. Apple is actually providing a randomized email address so instead of seeing [email protected] when I sign in to your website, you will see [email protected]. What this means for marketers, product people, and technology organizations is that you can’t rely on this email address to actually identify or contact your customers. Instead, you will need a different way of communicating with your customers outside of email such as in-app or on the web.
If you think Sign In with Apple won’t take off, think again. Look at the new App Store Review Guidelines that require the inclusion of Sign In with Apple in certain circumstances as an alternative to the other social sign-on options.
“Apps that exclusively use a third-party or social login service (such as Facebook Login, Google Sign-In, Sign in with Twitter, Sign In with LinkedIn, Login with Amazon, or WeChat Login) to set up or authenticate the user’s primary account with the app must also offer Sign in with Apple as an equivalent option.”
This certainly sounds a bit anti-competitive to me, but either way, Apple’s new sign-in option is going to grow quickly.
Silence Unknown Caller
iOS 13 will also silence calls that are unfamiliar to the operating system. Now, unknown calls just show up as missed calls without even ringing your phone. No more telemarketers, no more off by one calls looking for the wrong person; everything just goes to voicemail. Having lived with this new feature for the last few months I can tell you, IT IS AMAZING!
So, why does this matter? This new feature may be great for consumers, but if your business uses phone calls to communicate with your customers, it could be a bit of a roadblock in certain circumstances. The first scenario to think about is that many apps offer a “Call Me” feature for convenience to avoid having customers wait on hold. While the Silence Unknown Caller feature is not on by default, I expect its popularity to be high and grow over time. The call silencing uses “Siri Intelligence” to scan through your mail and messages for known numbers that aren’t in your contacts, but it isn’t foolproof. For example, only after three or four attempts to have a conference line “Dial My Number” did I realize that it was just my phone silencing the calls entirely. Over time, robust in-app communication methods may be a more sure-fire way to reach your customers than phone calls. If you don’t want them to wait on hold or you need to contact them, consider sending them a text message, in-app Note, or a Push Notification to let them know they can call you if they’re free.
These are just three of the bigger changes coming with iOS 13. In addition to those, I’m excited about improvements in Share Sheets, new support for app developers to include Dark Mode in their apps, and removed limitations on cellular downloads from the App Store. These will all have varying impacts on how you craft your apps and how your customers consume them. At the end of the day, having a strong connection with your customers is going to make all of this easier, so get to it!