Last week, Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller mounted a staunch defence of Apple’s iPhone tracking software, with the Cupertino CEO denying that his company tracked any of its users. However, the execs did admit that a software glitch was causing iPhones that didn’t have location services switched on to record data and that a fix was on its way.
Now that fix, iOS 4.3.3, has been detailed and appears to show that Apple has taken on board the wider concerns of iPhone owners when it comes to location tracking. As well as sorting out the problem of location tracking working on phones that aren’t location aware, Apple is also said to be limiting the size of its location database, while stopping the back up of location data to iTunes.
Jobs might say that Apple doesn’t track people, but these updates suggest Cupertino is admitting that it has been culpable and that it wants to make amends for the problem. iOS 4.3.3 is said to be set for release in the next fortnight.
So, what does the update actually mean? Well, Apple, despite everything Jobs said last week, is acutely aware of the bad publicity that this has brought and wants to detoxify the story rapidly. It’s already gone some way to doing that by teasing a new mapping service in its location tracking FAQ last week. But this is a concrete step towards assuaging end users’ and privacy campaigners’ fears.
More importantly for them, it also puts them much closer to key rival Google in terms of tracking. Android does take data, but in a much more limited fashion and disposes of it after a certain time frame. Apple can in no way be seen to be ceding ground to its major competitor, especially in an area that is so contentious. Apple will want to fight on positive ground, but will also want to show that it holds the moral high ground too.
Of course, the company’s bullish approach means it won’t actually admit that this software bump is anything more than a bug fix. But it’s far reaching nature proves that Jobs and co have been stung by criticism and have reacted accordingly. That means attention will now switch to that new mapping service, the rumour mill whirring just the way Apple wants it to.