Apple usually guards private APIs, whose use by external developers is not officially approved, heavily: For example, the company is said to have special tools in its App Store review, which inform the reviewer exactly about such occurrences. However, it seems that Apple also makes exceptions here. The company apparently also gives special rights to particularly popular apps from time to time.
Practical private API
This has now come to light in the course of a code investigation carried out by developer Jeremy Provost. The beneficiary of Apple’s special treatment is said to be the video chat provider Zoom. It is about the split view of the iPad, which is used for multitasking. Since Zoom gets access to a private iPad camera API, the tool can also access the camera when the iPad is in said multi-window mode. So the user can also access other apps while zooming, for example for notes. Something like this is otherwise only possible with Apple’s own FaceTime service.
The feature is implemented via so-called Entitlements. Developers have to apply for this from Apple for certain critical functions "" – such as access to the HomeKit network or iCloud. This is an open process. But besides these "public entitlements" there are also private. They are known for example from Apple’s CarPlay vehicle integration. But there is currently no process for the function used by Zoom. "com.apple.developer.avfoundation.multitasking-camera-access" is therefore reserved for selected developers – in this case apparently only Zoom alone. The video conferencing service confirmed to Provost that they had received approval from Apple.
Not distributed extra rights for the first time
The extra rights for Zoom are reminiscent of other special treatments of rough companies in the App Store. For example, the movie service Hulu will be allowed to switch between Apple’s billing infrastructure (App Store Billing) and its own. For example, refunds can be made if there are changes to the membership. In addition, a private API was released that allowed users to upgrade or downgrade their subscriptions before it was officially available in the App Store.
With such special curls, Apple is currently not making it easy for itself in the rough lawsuit against the game provider Epic Games. The iPhone company always emphasizes treating all app developers equally and running a fair marketplace. Epic Games was happy to bypass Apple’s infrastructure altogether. If it now turns out that for Apple some developer "same" than another, this is fueling accusations that the group may be abusing its power.