updated 12:52 am EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
Update gives developers just three weeks to update their apps
Google has finally released an update for its AdMob advertising SDK for iOS developers that leaves those reliant on it just three weeks to update affected apps before Apple's hard deadline for rejecting apps that still use Unique Device Identification (UDIDs) to track app usage and advertising effectiveness. The new version, 6.4.0, retires the UDID scheme (which had emerged as a potential security and privacy risk that could compromise personal information) and adds support for test ads, along with some bug fixes.
AdMob was bought by Google in 2010 after a bidding war with Apple, which went on to buy Quattro Wireless in order to build its own iAd program, which has seen some general success in iOS advertising but has failed to seriously threaten Google's mobile advertising crown. The UDID, still widely used in Android app advertising, is favored by marketers because it can be tied to more personal information about the user, since most mobile devices are owned and used individually. The UDID was also helpful in developing pricing models for paying app publishers a commission based on the response of in-app ads.
Apple now requires developers and advertisers to use other measures, such as the Vendor Identifier or Advertising Identifier, introduced in iOS 6. The iPhone maker has also barred an alternate version of UDID info gathering known as "cookie tracking." The Advertising Identifier can be toggled on or off by users, but doesn't block ads -- turning the AdID off simply means the user will receive ads not tailored to his or her preferences and demonstrated interests. The AdID is on by default.
Developers are also free to create their own methods of obtaining granular usage and ad-response stats from within apps -- they just can't access the UDID of the device anymore, which limits the ability to tie device data to personal profiles gathered elsewhere. Apple cracked own on privacy in relation to in-app advertising after a number of abuses by advertisers and developers of unauthorized access of user data came to light.
The change away from UDID will affect Google in particular, since its entire business model -- and 96 percent of its revenue -- comes from advertising. Its strength in ad serving relies mostly on its ability to harvest enormous amounts of data about its users from their use of Google's many and varied services. While Apple and other tech names gather anonymous data usage stats from mobile devices, only Google has a vested interest in selling that information to advertisers. The company has been developing workarounds to the UDID ban for some time and is expected to adjust to the new rules in due course.
In addition to the UDID changes, the new AdMob SDK for iOS fixes a GADInterstitial crash when apps were running in the background, and fixes a GADMRAIDInterceptor threading crash. It now renames symbols to prevent duplicate symbol errors, and now supports receiving test ads when using AdMob though mediation (for iOS 6 and higher only).