iOS App Privacy and VoIP Data Collection

Apple is making a change to its operating system with the release of iOS 13, designed to improve user security. This change will impact several apps, particularly those with VoIP capabilities. Apps with those capabilities should prepare to update accordingly. Failure to do so can result in getting removed from the App Store, which can have long-lasting impacts on its App Store Optimization. At the same time, apps that do update can use this opportunity to stay ahead of the competition as competing apps are impacted by the change.

VoIP Background Data Collection

The upcoming change will impact third-party communication apps that use PushKit, a background VoIP process used to detect incoming calls while the app is not in use. While PushKit is primarily designed for VoIP calls, it can potentially be exploited to collect user data even while the apps are closed.

iOS 13 will prevent background data collection by restricting the process so it can only be used for calls made over an internet connection. This is a new security measure, one of many of Apple’s recent updates to improve user safety.

This change will impact a number of popular mobile apps, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat and WeChat. While iOS 13 is intended to roll out in September, developers have until April 2020 to ensure their apps are compliant. Any apps that do not comply with the updated policy by that time are at risk of removal.

What Developers Should Do

This change is targeted at communications apps that use VoIP calls, so developers of any such apps should check to ensure they’re compliant. Apps that include VoIP calling that use PushKit will be impacted and should change their game plan accordingly.

Even if an app does not use PushKit to collect data, it should still ensure that the background process can only be used for internet calls. If there is any chance of the app being able to gather background data, such functionality should be disabled.

These changes may not be small, but they are necessary. For instance, Facebook has stated that it does not use PushKit to collect data, but it is working with Apple to ensure its app is compliant with the new update.

This is one of several security and privacy policy updates Apple has made in recent months. In May, Apple restricted screen time and parental control apps. Other upcoming changes with iOS 13 include permissions for location tracking and subscription cancellation prompts, which can help users better control what apps can see them doing and what ones they’re paying for.

Although developers have until April to adjust their apps, they should begin working on updates and compliance immediately. Failure to do so can have multiple consequences for an app’s optimization.

Potential Consequences & ASO

First, removal from the App Store can have long lasting impacts. Even when the app is restored, it will have lost all its keyword rankings and will have to rebuild its indexation from scratch. In the time it’s down from the store, its competitors can gain new downloads from the current and potential users the app lost. For brands with high search volume, competitors can run Apple Search Ads campaigns to capture the traffic that would have otherwise gone to the app. In the time it takes to rebuild the app’s rankings, competing apps can continue to grow without setbacks.

Additionally, users care about their security and privacy. When it’s revealed that an app is lax with security, it can impact their reviews and result in uninstalls. This has a negative impact on an app’s rankings, so the loss in user trust has a direct impact on the app’s ASO.

Any VoIP calling app, even those that don’t use PushKit, can take this as an opportunity to compete. Staying on top of these changes and concentrating on keywords focused around calling apps is important, as the new change can impact a wide range of apps. If developers fall behind on updating their apps or their functionality is impacted by this change, their competitors can seize the opportunity to claim users and conversions the apps lost.

Overall

Apple is constantly fine-tuning its rules and closing potential security exploits, so app developers should be aware of any changes. VoIP calling apps should ensure they are compliant with the new rules immediately, and if they’re not, they need to update by next April.

Developers of competing apps can take advantage of this opportunity to ensure they’re fully optimized and prepared to bring in users who switch apps as a result of this change. While Facebook is actively working with Apple to ensure compliance, many third-party calling apps do not have that opportunity or may be unaware of the change until it’s too late. Make sure to update your app to be compliant, then when April rolls around, research keywords around “free calling,” “VoIP” and so forth. Many apps with those keywords will likely be removed, decreasing the competition for a time and giving you an opportunity to grow.

Make sure your app is not one of those removed and structure your metadata properly to make the most of the opportunity.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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