Apple has been under fire lately after the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter was hacked by the FBI through the use of a mysterious third party. The tech company, however, may be bringing new iPhone and iPad privacy mechanisms to its devices soon. The Verge identified some keys that were added into iTunes’ metadata, dubbed “isFirstParty” and “IsFirstPartyHideableApp,” which may be hinting Apple will soon let iPhone customers hide apps they aren’t using or don’t want.
New App Store settings hint Apple will let users hide unwanted default apps: Is this evidence of iOS hideable… https://t.co/4qONsmsipW
— ciprian moloci (@phoneindex) April 6, 2016
This might insulate apps against some infiltration attempts by hackers and would also save precious processing power on the iPhone if the feature comes to fruition. Android devices have offered the option to hide or disable applications for some time now, though implementing the feature on iPhones and iPads is not as simple as it might sound. “This is a more complex issue than it first appears,” [Apple CEO Tim Cook] said.
“There are some apps that are linked to something else on the iPhone. If they were to be removed they might cause issues elsewhere on the phone…”
It is true that the privilege of removing apps from phones or disabling them isn’t without caveats. Android devices will warn users before they are about to remove or disable an app, noting the said problems it could cause. Additionally, the apps will still be visible in Spotlight Search after removal, so disabling them is not an entirely private process.
Jailbreaking is also an option for removing and/or disabling iPhone apps, though this is dangerous and can compromise your security as well as void your phone’s warranty. That being said, waiting for the feature to officially roll out (or even a bit after it rolls out) may be the safest bet. Reports have suggested the innovation may be coming standard with iOS 10, so it’s still a bit of a ways off for now.
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It’s not clear exactly how this “hiding” feature would be implemented on iPads and iPhones. Other companies like Amazon use “Profiles” to, for instance, separate an adult’s content from their children’s. In addition to the obvious advantage of keeping kids away from unsanitary content, this little nuance also prevents children from accidentally making in-app purchases without realizing it.
It’s possible Apple would choose to enable the hiding feature this way, but they might also use a special application just for keeping content private, as some other smartphones do. This would make sense for those who want to password lock their apps and other private content, though passwords are sometimes fairly vulnerable to hacking attempts.
If you don’t want to wait for your iPhone to learn a new trick, BGR pointed out a simple workaround that doesn’t require jailbreaking: you simply need to move apps you want to hide into a new or existing folder, then drag the app to the right past the last tab in the folder. Finally, just press the home button, and voilá! The only downside is that the apps reappear if you reboot your iPhone, though this is a decent enough patch for the time being. Let us know if you’re aware of any other workarounds that will allow you to disable or hide apps on iPhones, and what you think about this small but useful little addition.