With the release of iOS 7 last year, Apple introduced smartphone users to the iBeacon, a Bluetooth-based system that lets these beacons alert nearby phones of their presence, ultimately triggering some kind of action in software – the whole thing was painted as a slightly more long-distance version of NFC tags. For instance, Major League Baseball has been installing iBeacons in stadiums to work in concert with its “At the Ballpark” app. Over the past few days, we’ve been talking about the myriad changes present in the release of iOS 7.1, and it turns out that there’s a pretty big one concerning how iBeacons work.
It used to be that an app had to be active – or at least running in the background tray – for it to detect iBeacons in a reasonable amount of time. If you did a reboot or a hard close, the app would no longer immediately notice the presence of new beacons – it might work eventually (after a reboot, at least), but could take upwards of fifteen minutes. 7.1 finally enables rapid iBeacon detection even when an app isn’t running, and you’ll see notifications pop up and appear on your lock screen.
Considering how location-based systems like iBeacon have the potential to be most useful when the user doesn’t have to be anticipating where and when they might run into them, this sounds like a quite significant adjustment to how the OS handles the feature.