Apple’s UDID replacement for iOS 6, a more private and tool dubbed the Apple Advertising Identifier that users can opt out of, isn’t working according to mobile app marketing platform Trademob. I spoke with Trademob CEO Ravi Kamran, who explained that any iOS 6 users who updated over Wi-Fi are showing IDs that are all zeros, instead of the unique number sequences being sent by those who plugged their devices in and updated via iTunes or Xcode.
Here’s the problem with that: Advertising on iOS is big business, and part of that big business involves being able to monitor the success of campaigns at the level of the individual user, in order to be able to provide ad content more likely to trigger a conversion or sale for that particular person. Without some way of knowing what kind of individual you’re serving ads to, the whole thing becomes a lot less likely to work in any meaningful way.
“The identifier is something that everybody was waiting for, and many were happy that it finally came,” Kamran said. “Many of the networks that we work with have already introduced a new SDK that takes the identifier from the publishers, so that it’s transmitted to the advertisers, and it’s actually very important that that work for the sake of the industry overall.”
According to Kamran, most advertisers were eagerly awaiting the new replacement of the UDID, which he says is overall much better in terms of protecting user privacy, since it’s non-personal and non-permanent in nature. The UDID came under fire after it caused some privacy problems with apps including Path. It also offers users the ability to turn it off complete, through an option in the General > About > Advertising section of the Settings app. I asked whether it might be the case that users simply had switched off the option, and if that might account for what Trademob was seeing, but Kamran said they’ve run extensive checks and compared notes with partners to make sure the actual cause of the problem was updating over Wi-Fi. It also doesn’t seem to matter where in the world users are; anyone updating via wireless network is sending unusable data.
It’s unclear what the percentage is of users that upgrade over-the-air versus via physical connection, but much higher early adoption rates than when iOS updates still required users to plug in suggest it could be a considerable amount. Users may not care (and in fact some might welcome the problem), but the iOS advertising ecosystem is bound to feel the pain until a fix is on the way.
We’ve contacted Apple to see whether a fix is in the works, and will update with more info when we hear back.