Apple Deprecated Access to UDID

By Rajat Bhalla November 30, 2011

OK. So some of you might have heard that Apple has deprecated access to UDID.

Well, that’s true….sort of…but what on earth does it mean.

Let’s find out.

Every iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch has an identifier unique to that device.

It is called a UDID which stands for Unique Device ID.

Some apps use it directly or some create a hash using it to uniquely identify the user/device.

They use a property called “uniqueIdentifier”.

Apple is now deprecating the method that is used to access the UDID of a device from within the app.

In other words, this method is slated for removal in some time and the apps already using this need to make provisions to transition off it.

Here’s what they say in the documentation.

Now how does Apple’s decision affect the stakeholders.

As for end users, it doesn’t affect them at all.

They have remained oblivious to the presence of UDID and would continue to do so.

There have been some blog posts around users screaming that their privacy is being compromised just because the app is sharing their UDIDs.

Baah! I dont see why that should be a big privacy concern.

There is a significant change for developers / app providers and advertisers however.

Some applications needed to identify individual users, say for subscription purposes.

Either they required all users to have an account at a central location, or they had to identify the user remotely on his device.

UDID helped in the latter scenario.

Using UDID and a little analytics code, the app provider could get valuable insights into the usage of the app.

However, with UDID going away, each app would have to create its own identifier for each device.

While that alone would not be a problem, the issue would be in reconciling this data with the previous data that used other means of identifying a user (UDID or a hash based on it).

So unless the app developers can find out a cunning way to reconcile the data, they would be starting afresh essentially.

Because this analytics data was the advertisers’ holy grail, they have nothing to cheer about either.

But why is Apple doing this anyways?

Well, “Who is John Galt”?

[I am reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand of late and this phrase stuck.]

Some highlight privacy concerns, including law suits, raised by some users of late (which I find frivolous).

However, there might be a hidden agenda of Apple in seeking to discontinue use of UDID.

Apple gets a share of the revenue generated by selling paid apps on its store.

It also gains from paid subscriptions.

Normally, when you buy a paid app, you can download it on another device at no extra cost by signing in with the same Apple id.

Apple gains on the first purchase, but subsequent installs don’t add to its coffers.

However, there are some paid apps that charge you for every install.

So if you paid a dollar when you bought and installed the app on your iPhone, you might have to pay some more to install the app on a new device, say your iPad.

This model is made possible only by identifying the devices individually and not necessarily the user alone.

Doing away with UDID would do away with this model too.

Could that be the reason?

Well, we would see.

Enough of doom and gloom.

There’s still a way out.

If you don’t really require any feature offered by iOS 5 SDK, you can continue to use any lower version and still access a device’s UDID.

The access is going to be deprecated only for iOS 5 SDK.

So unless you want to use iOS 5 SDK, you are good.

So long.

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1 comment

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