iBeacon Now Works When the App Is Closed
Apple launched iOS 7.1 today and with it a major, game-changing improvement to iBeacon.
As of today, once an app is installed it will “look” for beacons even if your app is shut down or you’ve rebooted your phone.
We tested the functionality today to verify the new feature.
After opening an iBeacon app we hard closed it: not just putting it into the background tray but swiping it closed entirely. The phone still detected beacons and sent a message through the lock screen, something which in the past was reserved for apps that were at minimum running in the background tray.
The functionality even works if you reboot your device: after you power down your phone and start it up again, it will continue listening for beacons even if you don’t open up the app again.
A Significant Change
The change is significant. When Apple launched iOS 7 and gave phones and tablets the ability to ‘hear’ Bluetooth LE powered beacons it opened up a new era in proximity-based experiences. Retailers could now send you a coupon when you’re near the cookie aisle or background information about a painting in an art gallery.
But there was a problem: along with a few other glitches in the iBeacon SDK (the software used to create the apps on your phone) there was no way to listen for Bluetooth LE beacons unless your app was, at a minimum, on in the background.
Ostensibly this was to ensure that users had an easy way to prevent spam messages or to opt-out of your iBeacon “experience”.
But with iOS 7.1 your application will listen for beacons even if it was hard closed. The user can still opt out by turning off “location permission” under settings, can turn Bluetooth off, or can delete your app entirely.
But the change is a major boon to iBeacon developers – and will mean you no longer need to find fancy ways to prompt your user to keep an app in background mode.
A Change in Responsiveness?
It’s probably too early to tell from a few quick tests, but we also noted what seemed like a major improvement in responsiveness to Bluetooth LE signals. Region changes, exits, and beacon detection seemed to happen at a significantly faster rate than in iOS 7.0
In the past, for example, we’d see a delay of 1-2 seconds up to a minute on exiting a region. In iOS 7.1 we see it happen nearly instantaneously.
We’re hoping other developers can chime in on this point – either anecdotally or otherwise, to let us know whether you’re seeing a near lightning response to beacon detection (or is that, perhaps, too much to ask? It might just be a low level of radio interference at our offices today).
In any case, we’re still doing a dance here at BEEKn to find that your app truly can see the world around it, and will find your beacons even if your app is off.
Give Us A Follow
And let us know what you think – But what do you think? Is a USB-powered beacon a niche device, or does it match most of the iBeacon use cases? Drop in your comments below.