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The digital ad market spent $139.8 billion in 2020.

But what would happen if one of the most commonly used mobile devices flipped advertising upside down?

Apple has gotten close with its latest iPhone update. The iOS 14.5 update has brought plenty for new users. Perhaps the most important change affects the privacy of users and how data tracking is managed.

Here is a breakdown of the biggest updates both users and developers will see in iOS 14.5.

The Updates

Apple released the iOS 14.5 update on April 26 and it came packed with new features. The most notable updates include:

  • The ability to unlock your iPhone with an Apple Watch, which is particularly useful when wearing a mask
  • Crowdsourcing of accidents and speed traps in Apple Maps, similar to the features found in Waze
  • Transparency in app tracking for users

Coupled with all of the smaller updates and bug fixes, the latest iOS update is solid. It seems the app tracking changes have created the most noise, however.

The update requires developers to ask permission before tracking users, changing the way many apps do business.

What Is App Tracking?

Nearly every app on the App Store tracks users in one way or another. This may be for advertising purposes, creating a better user experience, or both. But users don’t always have a clear understanding of what is being tracked.

This is where iOS 14.5 comes in. Apple breaks down privacy into three categories.

App developers use data to actively track users across websites or apps. This is the type that will see the biggest change.

Another privacy category includes data that is collected but only linked to a specific user. The third category is collected data that is not linked to a user.

The majority of apps available on the app store include the first category of data tracking. Tracking is accomplished through an Identifier for Advertiser (IDFA) number.

The IDFA is a unique identifier for the Apple device that tracks user data across apps. IDFAs can be used to deliver more relevant ads to a user or determine the success of an ad campaign.

The Apple update allows users to restrict who can use their IDFA.

App Tracking for Users

Existing iPhone or iPad users need to actively access the settings to change tracking. You can access this by visiting Settings>Privacy>Tracking. The Allow Apps to Request to Track setting can be toggled on or off here.

When downloading new apps, the app will ask for permission to track your activity. You can then allow tracking or ask the app not to use tracking.

With users steering the wheel behind tracking, developers will need to consider their options.Click To Tweet

Turning the setting off provides more privacy for you, but also will result in less relevant ads. You will continue to see advertisements, but they will be far more random and less targeted.

With users steering the wheel behind tracking, developers will need to consider their options.

App Tracking for Developers

If you are a developer, you have been presented with a new challenge. You will need to re-create your user experience to accommodate the updates.

App tracking can help enhance the user experience and provide funding for the primary function of your app. So developers will need to change from business as usual.

You will need to update your apps to ensure that you ask users if your app can track their activity. If the user doesn’t give you permission, you’ll see all zeroes filled in for the IDFA.

Developers are also responsible for disclosing the details of the tracking when submitting an app for review. When submitting an app you must also outline the reason you are requesting tracking permissions.

The best way for developers to address the new changes is to be open and transparent with users. Some users will allow tracking depending on what it means for them.

If tracking helps keep a valuable app free, some users will agree to be tracked. They’re also more likely to accept tracking that improves the user experience or supports artists that they love.

Word travels fast, so if you are not open with the reasons for tracking or you use data for poor reasons, users will know. A lack of transparency could kill your app.

What’s Next?

Apple is currently working on updates for iOS 15, which has an expected release date of September of 2021. Updates are in store for nearly every native app.

Perhaps because of the explosion of virtual gatherings due to COVID-19, the Facetime app will undergo improvements. Apple will also refine the Notifications, Messages, Safari, Photos, and Apple Wallet apps.

Apps that use tracking will undergo even more scrutiny under the upcoming iOS 15 update as well. iOS 15 users will begin to see a new Privacy menu that further details data collection.

Users will be able to see a breakdown of what apps they have permitted to access things like the camera or microphone. They’ll also be able to see how often the app accesses that data.

Another new feature applies to the Mail app. Currently, email marketers can see data about when and where the user reads marketing emails. iOS 15 will discontinue this feature.

The iOS 14.5 Update as a First Step

Based on the iOS 14.5 update, the direction that Apple is headed in is clear. Users will have more access to see where their data goes. They’ll also be able to more specifically refine it.

Meanwhile, developers will be challenged with learning new ways to interact with their users. You’ll just need a little bit of creativity to continue to grow your app.

Future forward developers will rise to the challenge. Contact us for assistance in building a mobile solution for the new digital frontier. We will help you meet the challenge!

Simon Lee

Simon Lee

Founder and CEO of Glance. Simon has a wealth of development and management experience in mobile technologies and is an innovator and new technology evangelist.