Adapting to New iOS13 and Android Q Location Sharing Permission Changes: What to Expect

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Creating great app experiences that are powered by location data is one of the most meaningful ways to bridge the digital and physical worlds together, and the opportunity is growing. Grand View Research forecasts that the location tech industry is slated to expand by 15% by 2025, indicating that there is a near future where consumers and companies can engage even more deeply with the real world through location technology.

At the same time, location data can be seen as some of a person’s most sensitive information. This month, both Apple and Google released significant updates to their operating systems (OS) that will have a big impact on the way location data is shared and collected. It is just one of many ways the tech industry is trying to self-regulate and protect consumers’ information in the absence of federal-level privacy regulations.

These new location-sharing permission changes impact an app’s ability to gather the necessary data they need to build location-based app features, and while it’s too early to understand the significance of the impact, these changes give a clear indication of how the tech industry must evolve to be more transparent with consumers and provide clearer, opt-in consent through any data exchange.

Adapting and adjusting to these changes first and foremost require a high-level understanding of what specifically these updates include, and how they impact the interaction between an app and its users.

Understanding the Key OS Platform Changes

Apple iOS 13

One must-know aspect of location permission changes on Apple’s iOS 13 operating system is the removal of the “Always Allow” background location permission option at initiation. Instead, users will be presented with a “Change to Always Allow” prompt after the first session when the app is still running but is not closed. Additionally, Apple iOS users will be presented with an “Allow Once” option that will give an app temporary access to the person’s location for that specific use. If a user selects “Allow Once,” she or he will be prompted for location permission again in the next app session.

Moreover, iOS 13 will automatically show a location verification permission prompt to the user—something the app publisher won’t have any control over. At present, it’s unclear precisely how many times this prompt will be pushed to users, but it will include a map of all locations the app has received from iOS 13, in addition to location trails. This information will only be shown to users who have selected “Always Allow” in the second prompt.

Google Android Q

Android Q gives users more control over when apps can get access to a device’s location. More specifically, Android Q will present users with a dialogue box asking for the following location sharing permissions: “Allow All the Time,” “Allow Only While Using This App,” or “Deny.”

If an app needs to access the device’s location when running in the background, it will also need to declare the new permission in the app’s manifest file. To read more about this, as well as to learn about other forthcoming Android Q updates, see Google’s recent release documentation.

Brands and apps should be ready for these platform changes. Here are some tips:

  1. First and foremost, the most important thing brands and apps should do is make sure there is a valuable use case for accessing user location — and explaining the value to users as clearly as possible and as soon as possible. Experiments in Foursquare’s consumer apps, City Guide and Swarm, show that both notification and location permission opt-in rates are higher when accompanied by a strong use case and/or well-presented explanation screens. Objective Zero, a not-for-profit mobile application used to combat veteran suicide, has found their opt-in rate as high as 80% because of its user value.

  2. For iOS 13 apps that use background location data to send users notifications when they arrive at a specific place, it’s recommended that apps only ask for background location permission after notification permission has been granted. Otherwise, apps run the risk that the users won’t see the value that enabling background sharing provides and simply disable it when prompted.

  3. For apps running on Android Q, ask for location permission sharing immediately when users open an app. This goes primarily for apps where it’s obvious from the name of the app to users why location is potentially useful.

Key Takeaways

It’s clear by now that the iOS 13 and Android Q changes will impact every app publisher that utilizes location data, and seeing a change in opt-in rates is expected (and appropriate). Those without a good use case for location will — and should — be left behind.

Apple’s and Google’s changes are an example of the tech industry taking action to give greater transparency and control to users. The changes also show that apps should and must provide consumers with real, tangible value. Designed to give users more control over their privacy and data, these location permission updates are ultimately a step in the right direction for the general public.

By knowing what these changes will mean to any business, app publishers will still be in a position to use location data at an advantage and provide value to their users — on the users’ terms.

As senior vice president of product, Josh leads product development across Foursquare, including our suite of enterprise products—Pinpoint, Attribution, and our developer tools—as well as our consumer apps. Previously, Josh was at Google, where he was the group product manager for Publisher Advertising Platforms and Business Product Manager for Google News, responsible for global product strategy, marketing, and publisher outreach. He was also vice president of business development for the consumer media team at Reuters Media and director of business development for SmartMoney.com, a joint venture between Dow Jones and Hearst. Josh holds degrees from the University of Michigan and Columbia Business School, where he graduated Beta Gamma Sigma.

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