Apple removing UDID from iOS 5

Aug 22, 2011
Tech

Apple is shaking things up on developers and the way they operate yet again, this time removing the unique device identification number from iOS 5. If you’re a non-developer iOS user, you’ve probably never noticed the UDID on iTunes, but you can bet that advertisers and developers have noticed yours. The UDID is a 40-digit […]

Apple is shaking things up on developers and the way they operate yet again, this time removing the unique device identification number from iOS 5.

If you’re a non-developer iOS user, you’ve probably never noticed the UDID on iTunes, but you can bet that advertisers and developers have noticed yours. The UDID is a 40-digit unique combination of letters and numbers that allows developers to track what you do with your iPhone in apps. Apple uses the UDID for its iAds so they can target users to whom those ads would be interesting, and other networks do the same. Developers even use the UDID to send review builds of their apps to writers such as myself.

But according to a story from TechCrunch, Apple has revealed in the latest beta build of its upcoming update to its mobile operating system, iOS 5, the UDID will be removed. App developers are instead required to make up their own method of identifying their users, specific to their apps, according to the Apple Developer documentation.

The change has a number of implications. For one, ad networks and developers now have to figure out how to track devices themselves, rather than relying on Apple to do it for them, which means potentially a lot more work for everyone. As TechCrunch points out, it could also mean that user data that has been compiled for the last few years using UDIDs among ad sellers and developers and the like could be pretty much useless once iOS 5 goes live. It all goes out the window and everyone starts from zero. That’s very bad for business for some.

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There’s also speculation that Apple might hold on to the UDID for itself, but close it off to developers, which wouldn’t exactly be out of the norm for Apple given that occasionally it’ll just develop its own built-in features of things apps have been doing for years. TechCrunch’s sources seem to think it’s unlikely that Apple would do that to developers, but the company has made some clandestine moves in the past, like attempting to ban Flash games from the iTunes App Store before realizing the effect the ban had on other platforms, such as Unity, according to Pocket Gamer.

Another sector likely to be effected is analysis of the App Store and of its users. For example, Flurry Analytics tracks hundreds of thousands of iOS users in order to create accurate pictures of trends and app usage. The company will likely have to come up with a new way to track apps on iOS, and it likely won’t be as effective.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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