Wednesday, 15 October 2014

iOS8 apps GPS Always privacy battery concern

Why do the majority iOS8 apps access GPS all the time and is this killing battery life.

The short answer must be yes. A parallel example and some context can be found is the now growing by day popularity smart watch scene. The latest 920XT from Garmin battery lasts only 24 hours with GPS on all the time, and this almost doubles to 40 hours when using the GPS in a limited mode every minute rather than constantly. However, if we turn GPS off, but still leave the Bluetooth, WiFi (yes I am also bored of hearing misguided people turning Bluetooth off on their smartphone to save battery, ok it helps, but relativity is important...) and other smart features on, we get months of battery from the 920xt.
Smartwatch battery life varies between hours with GPS enabled, to months with GPS off, but still Bluetooth, etc on.... 
So go to Settings, Privacy, Location Services and prepare to be surprised, and then quite annoyed.

Surprised is first because you notice that pretty much all your apps are using location services always. Indeed I found this from the iOS alert to this very fact.
iOS8 alerts to the fact that all these apps are using GPS in the background
And then you look at the list and see responsible app developers either having "while using" only by default or allowing the option to be only using GPS when needed, the "While Using" option, like the amazing 645Pro camera app and Apple's own App Store by default: as it should be.

Responsible Apps are only using GPS while Using by Default.
So then you look at the long list of apps and see that from, yes admittedly I have a lot of apps on my devices at any given time. Surprise then shifts to annoyance as you try to make the Avis and Addison Lee (taxi) apps only use data when they need to, i.e when using: Why does Avis Car hire and Addison Lee, obviously now on their second app developer and fell out with their first (prey tell why two apps if not???) need to know my position all the time? in Case they want to surprise me with an unsolicited car? I don't think so!

Why do all these apps need constant GPS access?

And it is not just Avis, ist pretty much all except 5 of 55 apps.
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After going through them all (and one iOS8 crash... #notwhenJobswasabout) I have managed to turn all that I can back (some apps have changed, sorry).

The Good are British Airways, Chrome and the Apple apps.
 I am very bored with clicking through apps now...
Facebook and Google leading the way
 About here is when iOS 8.02 crashed, nice... look for the whole section again...

Instagram, the amazing Manual and the great Netatmo, as well as other FB propoertises and Apple apps: good
 Nice to see Netatmo being responsible, and you can see that "Manual" is a showcase Apple app right here!

Speedtest the only one here other than native apple apps
 No surprise Ryanair not following British Airways's great example... I wonder if they plan to charge me extra for not being close enough to the airport when checking in?

Vivino and Twitter the only responsible app developers here in this last list
So why is this? Well a key part of the problem is that apps, and indeed mobile, are still "something we should do" for most big companies and brands, and they do not have anyone representing good UX reporting all the way up, which is just not a good plan in todays "mobile first" environment where Facebbook clearly does. The next question that comes along after battery life is; are these companies using / processing this info off the app? We all still remember the contacts scandal apps privacy of a few years back I am sure...