iOS 11 ‘Blue Bar’ Feature Increases Visibility of Apps Using Location Access

When iOS 11 is available later this year, users will have the option to customize how each app uses his or her location — regardless of the options a developer provides.

According to a new report from TechCrunch, iOS 11 includes a feature in which “a more prominent blue status bar that appears when an app is actively using your location while running in the background.”

Prior to iOS 11, users could only use one of the location access options provided by developers. That meant, for an app like Uber, you were limited to two options. If a developer didn’t want to include the option for use only while you are using the app, you were stuck with Never or Always.

iOS 11 includes a “While Using The App” setting, as well as the inclusion of a blue bar at the top when an app is actively using your location in the background.

This feature obviously impacts apps that rely on location data, such as Uber or Foursquare. However, it also impacts apps that use location data for more suspect purposes, such as reselling location data or displaying location-based advertisements without users knowing.

“The apps that will be most significantly impacted are those that need to lurk in the background 24/7, even if the user has not run the app in the foreground for quite some time, and automatically wake up based on location,” says Pete Tenereillo, CEO of location startup Pathsense.

According to Tenereillo, this largely includes family safety and family locator-type apps, smart home apps, insurance telematics apps, and those using location-based advertising, reads the report.

With iOS 11 still in beta, most users won’t be able to take advantage of this minor yet highly welcome update for quite some time. If history is any indication, iOS 11 will be released to the public this September just days ahead of the expected iPhone 8 launch.

World-traveling, tech-savvy, music-producing writer obsessed with all things Apple, video games, and the finer things in life, e.g. mezcal and tacos. When I'm not writing I'm exploring new places, eating new foods, and generally trying to be a decent human.

  • It’s annoying to be honest. I wish there was a way to disable it. But, there is some use to it. I did find out Google Photos was checking my location every few minutes. Google Photos is just for backing up my photos from the iOS Photos app, nothing else. The location metadata can be extracted from there too.

    I turned it off and switched it to while using the app.

  • onefoot17

    I agree. I wish I could disable it for certain apps like Moves where I actually do want it to track my location at all times. I had to turn off Moves cos that constant blue bar is annoying. I also have Find my Friends turned on and my wife can always track me but there’s no blue bar. Interesting distinction Apple is making.

  • I don’t think Find My Friends uses location constantly. I think how it works is that it waits until one of your friends requests your location, then when that happens it connects to your phone and checks your location and updates it on the Find My Friends map. I think it also updates your location anytime your phone checks its location for another purpose, like if you were to open a maps app or use another app that grabs your location.

    Note that this is just guessing based on how I’ve seen it work, but it would make sense to me for it to run like that. It’s probably tightly integrated with Find My iPhone and it wouldn’t surprise me if it uses the same location database, constantly updating device locations every time a device checks it for whatever reason.

    I guess you could check it by not using your phone for any location-based tasks for a minute or two, then have your wife check your location on Find My Friends and request an update. See if your phone suddenly gets a blue bar for a few seconds.