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Encrypted messaging app developers are having trouble updating for iOS 13

iOS 13 Hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Apple is continuing its focus on privacy in iOS 13 and announced a few changes to how messaging apps can collect data using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). That’s great for the privacy-conscious, but there’s one problem — it means that messaging apps have to significantly change how their apps work, and according to The Information, they’re scrambling to get it done ahead of the release of iOS 13 to the public.

The root of the issue is that Apple is seriously limiting the PushKit API, which was originally designed for VoIP calls, but has since been used for data collection, and also for encrypting messages. That’s because some apps use PushKit to decrypt messages in the background. The major change to PushKit is that it’ll now only be used for internet calls — and as such, companies won’t be able to use it for anything else, including message encryption and decryption. Apps include the likes of Threema, Wickr, and Wire.

It’s not impossible to work around the limitations, but as some developers noted in the story, the changes require some pretty significant effort — and some smaller developers may be in trouble. Not only that, but while developers are working on other ways to encrypt and decrypt messages in iOS, those options are apparently far inferior to the older PushKit option.

Officially, Apple gave developers until April 2020 to comply with the changes — however if developers want their apps to make use of new features iOS 13, they’ll need to make those changes much sooner. Of course, Apple doesn’t necessarily want to limit developers — just make the iPhone safer. Apple, for its part, says that it is working with developers to implement changes to their apps.

“We’ve heard feedback on the API changes introduced in iOS 13 to further protect user privacy and are working closely with iOS developers to help them implement their feature requests,” Apple said in the report.

We’ll have to wait and see exactly how encrypted messaging works in iOS 13 once the new operating system works — but if developers can’t figure out a way to adhere to the changes soon, a whole lot of messaging apps may not work as well as they could in iOS 13.

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