What you need to know
- A new report claims that Apple has given Zoom special access to an API that unlocks Split View multitasking on iPad when using the camera.
- Developer Jeremy Provost made the discovery and says Zoom confirmed it had been given access.
- The report also says the entitlement is not currently publicly available to other developers.
A new report claims that Zoom has been given access to a special camera API that unlocks Split View multitasking on the iPad, a feature not currently available to other developers.
A few months back I was surprised to see that Zoom had somehow been able to tap into using the camera during iPad Split View multitasking. This is an obvious feature for a videoconferencing app so that you can keep one eye on your meeting while you consult notes, look at a presentation, or slack off on Twitter.
I scoured the web and found no reference to how to enable this feature for our own iOS Zoom client, Participant for Zoom. We asked Zoom and to our surprise they gave us the answer, and in the process revealed an apparently private process, available only to those deemed worthy by Apple.
According to Provost, the capability comes through what's known as an entitlement, both public and private tools offered to developers to enable certain features in apps. One example of a private entitlement is CarPlay integration, which developers must apply to Apple for access in order to unlock. Given CarPlay's application, it is only available to audio, automaker, communication, EV charging, navigation, parking, or quick food ordering apps. Whilst the entitlement itself is private, it is referenced and listed publicly by Apple. Apple's developer website lists a Requesting the CarPlay Entitlements article that tells developers how they can ask for access.
Provost claims that the entitlement for Split View and multitasking with the camera on, previously thought to be limited to FaceTime on iPadOS, is called 'iPad Camera Multitasking' but that there is currently no public process for applying for such an entitlement. As 9to5Mac notes it appears Zoom is currently the only meeting app with access to the feature except for Apple's own FaceTime service. Apple has previously confirmed it sometimes tests features and changes with smaller pools of developers before pushing them out to the wider community, as such it could be the case Apple is working to roll out the 'iPad Camera Multitasking' entitlement to more developers down the line, with Zoom serving as a test case.
Provost asked Zoom's developer forum about the issue of Split View on Zoom and the video camera not working:
If an app using the iOS SDK is in Split View on the iPad, calling MobileRTCMeetingService.muteMyVideo returns success but does not start camera. Both the camera preview does not show anything and nothing is transmitted to other users in the meeting. This functionality works in the Zoom iOS app.
A member of staff at Zoom told Provost to try the latest version and to enable the aforementioned entitlement, even providing a screenshot showing the 'iPad Camera Multitasking' checkbox. Provost noted:
We do not have access to the iPad Camera Multitasking capability. We have reached out to Apple to see if this entitlement can be granted. Do you have any more information on how to request access from Apple?
Zoom responded that this would be a matter for Apple's developer support.
Whilst the exact status of the entitlement and access is unclear, that didn't stop Provost passing judgment on Zoom's access to it:
It's understandable that this entitlement may not be appropriate for every app, or perhaps there may be ways for it to be abused. Maybe it makes sense for there to be an approval process, like with CarPlay. But it doesn't make sense for this to be private, undocumented, and only accessible to Apple's preferred partners. You can't say "we treat every developer the same" while privately giving special capabilities to certain developers.
iMore has reached out to both Zoom and Apple for comment.
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