Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

On the Blame for iOS 11’s Active Location Services Status Bar

Some followup on the blue status bar indicating an app using location services, which will be part of iOS 11. Matthew Panzarino:

Thanks I guess. But this is hurting the user more than it’s helping. It’s Apple pointing fingers on battery life. The Politibar.

I know this came from some bad behavior on behalf of location apps but it puts the onus on the wrong party.

I get where Panzarino is coming from here, but I disagree that this is mis-assigning blame. Some apps should reasonably be granted background access to a user’s location, and the user should be clearly aware of when that’s the case. This status bar isn’t a problem for those apps; it is a problem for apps when they are sneaky about using location services in the background. I don’t see how that can possibly hurt users.

Also, if this is shaming apps that are eating up battery life by displaying which are using location services in the background, so be it: shaming works.

A reasonable argument could be made that Apple should apply more stringent screening to apps that use location services. Even so, they may not catch every instance of nefarious behaviour; this status bar ought to do that. A reasonable argument could be made that the iPhone’s battery should be bigger, but Apple has long tried to balance battery life expectations with thinness and lightness. I’d love to get much longer battery life from my phone, but I also don’t want my phone to have the added thickness and weight of the iPhone battery case.

Your priorities may differ, but I think it’s very helpful for users to tell them when apps may be consuming more of their battery life — particularly when they’re using location services in the background and the user isn’t fully aware of that.