Updated April 26th, 2021: iOS 14.5 arrives on April 26th! From that date, your app must use the ATT (App Tracking Transparency) framework provided by Apple. If your users don’t give explicit consent, you will not be able to track them anymore.
Updated Sept. 30th, 2020: added new questions that have emerged in the latest days & also useful links for App and Game Devs. I will keep this article updated as new info arises.
Apple has caused the APPocalypse! The IDFAs are dead! An $80 billion ad industry is trembling! The oceans are rising and the sky will fall on our heads!
This is what we all have been hearing for the last months. Everyone in the mobile industry has been talking about iOS 14.5 and the potentially catastrophic effects it will have. You probably have been bombarded with so many, many emails, blog posts, podcasts, tweets, and much more. Am I right?
I have been in the same situation, trying to make sense of every new piece of information that has emerged. At Appodeal, we have decided to make this article, so you don't suffer the same headaches. For the last week, I have been gathering the most relevant & frequent questions you sent to our support team, and solving them.
In this post, you will find all the answers & information you need. Stop stressing yourself, get your Ad Monetization ready for iOS 14.5, and go back to developing your awesome mobile game.
So, let’s start with the basics:
- UPDATED (April 2021): iOS 14.5 is HERE! Be ready & Update your SDK!
- Checklist: All you must do to be ready for iOS 14.5!
- UPDATED (September 2020): IDFA removal delayed until 2021?
- Does Appodeal support SKAdNetwork?
- Why iOS 14.5 impacts your Ad Monetization?
- Do you have support & technical documentation on Appodeal?
- What challenges will iOS 14.5 present to my current App Monetization?
- How to convince my users to accept being tracked?
- What alternatives to SKAdNetwork do I have?
- Can I use IDFV for ad attribution?
- Any more Opt-In changes in iOS 14.5 that I should care about?
- How does SKAdNetwork work at a technical level?
- Will these new iOS 14.5 Updates change the in-app behavior of my users?
- How my UA Campaigns will be affected?
- And what about fraud on UA campaigns?
- Can iOS 14.5 negatively affect any other areas of my app?
- Why would Apple want everyone to use the SKAdNetwork?
- Are we sure IDFA is truly “dead” and won’t come back?
- Should I change my app on GooglePlay and other Stores too?
UPDATED (April 2021): iOS 14.5 is HERE! Be ready & Update your SDK!
iOS 14.5 arrives on April 26th.
From that date, your app must use the ATT (App Tracking Transparency) framework provided by Apple. If your users don’t give explicit consent, you will not be able to track them anymore.
Appodeal supports conversion tracking using Apple’s SKAdNetwork. You will still be able to connect your ad units with different ad networks & control your ad waterfalls.
From your Appodeal Growth Platform you will be able to:
- Customize your Ad Waterfalls for iOS 14.5
- Optimize your Consent Flow: A/B Test your communication before and after prompting Apple’s Consent Form to increase the IDFA opt-in rates.
- Split IDFA/no-IDFA users: compare them in your dashboard, create user segments, run A/B tests and optimize your ad monetization strategy.
Update to the latest Appodeal SDK for iOS 14.5!
Checklist: All you must do to be ready for iOS 14.5!
These are the necessary steps to be ready for iOS 14.5 & take the most out of the Appodeal Growth Platform:
- Update to the latest Appodeal SDK version 2.9.1: This update will allow your integrated ad networks to attribute your user by SKAdNetworks.
- Integrate the ATT prompt-in to keep receiving Ad Attribution Data: You must provide authorization through the App Tracking Transparency framework. You can do this entirely from your side.
- Enable SKAdNetwork on your apps’ Apple versions: check & follow the list of SKAdNetwork’s IDs. They may change over time. Keep each SKAdNetwork ID adequately tracked.
- If necessary, contact your preferred Ad Networks to double-check your configuration.
And with that, you will comply with Apple App Store Guidelines. Your apps and games will keep receiving aggregated user-level data from opted-in users.
UPDATED (Sept): IDFA removal delayed until 2021
IDFA removal should have arrived in September. However, Apple has recently announced that they delayed iOS 14.5, and IDFA removal. That will now go into effect in early 2021.
“We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”Apple Inc.
That gives developers more time to get their Apps ready. Therefore, when the time comes, the enforcement of the new guidelines may be stricter.
Does Appodeal support SKAdNetwork?
Appodeal Ad Mediation supports conversion tracking using Apple's SKAdNetwork with all the ad networks that you can integrate, check here our list of ad demand sources.
At the same time, any ad networks you choose to work with (and are compatible with our platform) can attribute app installs even when IDFA is unavailable.
You will not find Appodeal registered as a SKAdNetwork. Targeting and attribution of ad creatives is the logic of an Ad Network, but a mediation & growth platform for your apps. We are 100% unbiased!
Appodeal Mediation SDK will still allow you to connect your ad units with different ad networks and control your ad waterfalls.
Why iOS 14.5 impacts your Ad Monetization?
In short, iOS 14.5 introduces an opt-in form on every app to let users choose if they want to be tracked for ad purposes. And it looks like this:
The first time a user receives the “Apple’s iOS 14.5 Opt-In” pop-up, looks rough. You can barely customize it, and when users open your game, they will get a notification like this:
If the user accepts, then you can keep monitoring their IDFA (Identifier For Advertisers). If not, you will get their SKAdNetwork.
SKAdNetwork is a framework that allows mobile apps to attribute installs while preserving the end-users’ privacy. You can track which of your Marketing Campaigns led to new users installing your apps or making purchases. However, you will not get in-depth user information such as real-time data, user-lever data, view-through & click-through metrics, advanced attribution services (cohorts, LTV, deep linking…).
This is revolutionary.
Do you have support & technical documentation on Appodeal?
You have at your disposal a dedicated page on how to integrate iOS 14.5 to your Appodeal SDK 2.7.3. You will find all the details on our Appodeal Wiki.
If you’re facing issues during the integration of any part of the document, do not hesitate to contact our support team. They will help you with any problems and guide you through the process.
What challenges will iOS 14.5 present to my current App Monetization?
iOS 14.5 puts a wall between your users and the data that you can collect from them. Now you will have to explicitly ask them for permission (through the apple opt-in form). As you can already guess, any barrier is an extra step that your users may not overcome.
According to some experts in the industry, around 85% of mobile users may decline to be tracked if you show them a raw opt-in.
Later tests and studies have shown that Opt-In Rates may not be that terrible: "During this month of August, we launched a multi-variable test to a non-controlled casual-gaming audience of ~10K users, and they got between 40% to 73% opt-in ratios".Adikteev
For all those users who have declined opt-in in your monetization, you will not be able to:
- Use user-level data or behavioral targeting based on previous users’ app activity.
- Retarget networks within your waterfall.
- Get real-time data from your campaigns.
- Make small campaigns (Apple will send you the accumulated data only after an undisclosed amount of conversions occurred for the same app and campaign ID).
- Use Advanced Attribution Services (deferred deep-linking and long cohorts / LTV)
These effects will translate into a decrease in the fill rates of your ad units, and lower eCPMs since the quality of the ads you’re sending is less specific and relevant to your audience.
However, from Appodeal, we have already identified some ways to reduce the potential damage caused by the iOS 14.5 update. Keep reading to find it out.
How to convince my users to accept being tracked?
Who would really accept being voluntarily tracked, spied on, or followed?
However, these past years the Privacy Laws, such as GDPR & CCPA, are enforcing apps and mobile games to get consent from the users to collect their data. You may already have a “Consent Pop-Up” completely customized that shows in the FTUE (First Time User Experience).
At Appodeal, you are covered. We created a Consent Management Platform to collect all your users’ consent.
We recommend you customize your “Consent Flow” with an appealing message before & after Apple's pop-up.
Try several versions of your customized Consent Pop-up, use adequate language, keep it simple and straightforward, and highlight its advantages. Don’t just say that you want to “track” them and tell them how they will benefit.
And again, update your App’s info.plist. This step is a must, or you won’t have the ID of each advertising partner.
What alternatives to SKAdNetwork do I have?
Some people think that certain actors in the mobile industry will not be pleased to work only with the aggregated data received from SKAdNetworks. They will look for other types of user-level matching to acquire granular data.
Probabilistic matchmaking models such as “fingerprinting” will probably still be available. This has always been the second-best alternative option when IDFA matchmaking wasn’t possible, and companies wanted to track user-level data.
Fingerprinting is a technique to identify the user’s device at the time of an ad click. It takes a snapshot that collects device information (IP, Brand Device, OS…) & user’s parameters (screen size, timestamp, plugins…). It is often used in the ad industry to attribute installs.
And other less common alternatives are statistical models like “Media Mix Modeling”. However, this seems a big turn-around, and in digital environments, we have more accurate methodologies.
Drawbacks when using Statistical & Probabilistic methodologies:
They’re less accurate, more susceptible to fraud, and it will be harder to identify duplicates. At the same time, the GDPR & CCPA privacy legislation is trying to prevent the abuse of these techniques. Even the prevailing trend for browser-based platform developers is to remove access to data points that could be used for fingerprinting.
We don’t even know if Apple will end up forbidding these techniques too.
So far, the mobile industry does not have any clear alternative. Unless something big happens, you better be ready for what iOS 14.5 will bring, because experts agree that SKAdNetwork and similar technologies will stay for a while.
Can I use IDFV for ad attribution?
IDFV is an identifier for Vendors. This means that all the apps in the same company are sharing the same IDFV.
It is useful for publishers and developers that have several apps released on iOS. IDFV is an identifier that will not change unless the user uninstalls all the apps from this particular vendor. It is mostly used for marketing purposes.
However, you can't use IDFV for Ad Attribution.
Are any more Opt-In changes in iOS 14.5 that I should care about?
So far, we have been speaking about getting the user’s consent to track their advertising identifier.
However, if you are a mobile publisher or an app developer, there are two other Opt-In Prompts that you should be aware of.
First, it is the “New Location Permission Prompt”.
So far, users could choose if they wanted to share their GPS localization. That gave precise coordinates to the analytic tool of your choice. However, now they will have an extra option: approximate location. This will allow them to limit the geographical data sent to your app.
And the second one is the “In-App Data Collection Prompt”.
This prompt it’s not new, but it will include further alterations. In iOS 14.5, you will now have to list the data you collect about users. Your app will display that info as the following picture shows: a high-level overview of how your app access, use, and share your user data. Also, App Store Connect will show this information too.
How does SKAdNetwork work at a technical level?
Since iOS 14.5 SKAdNetwork has been the topic in the Mobile Ad Industry, you may have heard how it works.
However, for those who still don’t know how SKAdNetwork framework works, here is a more extensive explanation along with a self-explanatory picture too:
“When a user taps an ad, advertisers display an App Store product screen with signed parameters that identify the ad campaign. If a user installs and opens an app, the device sends an install validation postback to the ad network. The Apple-signed notification includes the campaign ID but doesn’t include user- or device-specific data. The postback may include a conversion value and the source app’s ID if Apple determines that providing the values meets Apple’s privacy threshold.”Apple Developer Documentation
The source of this brief explanation is the Apple Developer Documentation, where you can find a longer explanation and all the deets.
Will these new iOS 14.5 Updates change the in-app behavior of my users?
The first thing that will happen is that users who didn’t accept to give you their IDFA will start receiving more irrelevant and noisy ads.
Irritating ads can cause several consequences to our users, but the most obvious one you should expect is frustration.
If users get tired of your app cause tiresome ads, they won’t install the next one through your in-app ads (since your ad units will be pushing mass media content instead of hyper-targeted and valuable services for them). They will probably have to find new apps on the App Store Search, and ASO will become more relevant.
Simultaneously, since you may not be able to use granular data to reach potential paying users so quickly, the new users you acquire may have lower retention rates (which ironically could affect your positioning on the App Store Ranks). And if you don’t have a finely tuned monetization strategy, your ads may not be so popular on the RTB auction mechanics, causing you to acquire low-quality users that may alter your metrics.
Again, we are speaking with conditionals and suppositions.
Those who look at the bright side of life
The optimists are saying that, sooner or later, “Users will realize that it’s better to accept the opt-in to improve their overall experience.”
Even if some users will definitely understand it that way. You can expect that people may be influenced in a different direction. Just imagine: what do you think will happen when all the iPhone users have to accept an annoying and alarmistic pop-up for each app they open?
- Do you think that influencers will create videos and blog posts explaining why it is good to accept the opt-in, each time, for hundreds of apps installed on their devices? how good it is for their in-app experiences to receive relevant ads?
- Or do you expect them to show how to enable the “limit all ad traffic” option by default, and just forget about it?
And also, do have in mind that the IDFA opt-in is not the only change on iOS 14.5, but it also updates several other features.
So yes, we should expect behavioral changes in your user base when iOS 14.5 will arrive.
How my UA Campaigns will be affected?
Again, it is hard to say. To properly answer the previous question, we can only speak hypothetically.
The iOS 14.5 update will affect your app in a different measure depending on which kind of app you have. Taking the Mobile Game Industry as an example, the UA Campaigns will not affect the same way different genres.
On one side, we have “hardcore” games with long-term retention tails. They use UA Campaigns to acquire potential VIP and paying users. Those games generate most of their revenue thanks to marketing campaigns with retargeting goals. And those campaigns drive high-spending users to buy more (on In-App Purchases). Still, they can only do that by tracking granular data and in-app events.
On the other side, we have a long list of companies developing dozens of hyper-casual games. Those companies monetize exclusively through hyper-segmented mobile advertising and acquire users thanks to the pull of becoming a temporary hit.
The UA Campaigns for all the games that fall into these two categories may struggle a bit more.
What about Mid-Core & Casual Games?
Those casual and mid-core games that have...
- average retention rates,
- a balanced ad vs. IAP monetization strategy,
- visually appealing styles for all the markets,
- and/or have a proper ASO positioning,
iOS 14.5 may not affect them that much.
And what about fraud on UA campaigns?
In the SKAdNetwork framework, Apple is vouching for all the installs of your apps. By doing so, they expect that this will reduce the likelihood of ad fraud.
According to the latest State of Mobile Ad Fraud: the analysis in the first half of 2020 show that gaming apps have a lower risk of suffering fraud in their UA Campaigns than non-gaming apps.
This depends mostly due to the dimensions of a UA Campaign. It’s been reported that substantial mobile marketing campaigns with high payouts typically attract more fraudsters. This happens more often on non-gaming apps.
However, the incentives for fraudsters are high. They are continually finding ways to break through these barriers.
Can iOS 14.5 negatively affect any other areas of my app?
Expect the unexpected.
iOS 14.5 comes with lots of changes. We should not be surprised to hear dozens of stories about its positive and negative effects.
So far, during the iOS 14.5 (beta), social media and specialized online magazines have already covered polemical situations from top-chart apps.
To keep it short, here you have a list of useful links. Maybe you can extract a valuable thing or two from these cases. Check if your app could get any of these issues, or similar ones.
- The New iOS 14 Is Already Unmasking Serious Privacy Concerns
- iOS 14 sends a notification when apps read your clipboard
- iOS 14: What do the orange and green dots in the status bar mean?
- Apple is finally making it easy to hide from trackers
- Facebook raises concerns that iOS 14 could harm its ad business
Why would Apple want everyone to use the SKAdNetwork?
The official answer from Apple is to improve the user’s privacy. They want to protect their users from all the apps in their iPhone & iPad ecosystem.
Even if iOS 14.5 hasn't been so well received by the industry, the mobile ad ecosystem consistently changes. Apple has already made similar moves, such as Safari’s anti-cookie Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). So it is not uncommon that new standards and regulations to roll out every few years, making previous models obsolete.
We cannot forget either Apple has “Apple Search Ads”, a service focused on mobile user acquisition. No matter the company’s ulterior intention, by limiting data availability, one of the consequences of iOS 14.5 is that Apple may become a walled garden (like other big actors in the industry such as Google, Facebook...).
At Appodeal, we strongly value our user’s privacy as well, and we cannot do anything else but applaud this course of action.
Ultimately, these standards help the mobile industry and make it move forward. Apple, with iOS 14.5 allows users to have the right to choose how apps will treat their data, and that should ideally be the goal of the mobile industry.
Are we sure IDFA is truly “dead” and won’t come back?
Again, IDFA is not “dead-dead”, but since we may expect a lot of people not to accept the opt-in, we should not rely that much on it.
Mobile developers and publishers shouldn’t get their hopes up by thinking that this move will be reversed. Industry experts believe that the Big Tech companies will probably toughen their privacy policies and restrictions in favor of the end-user.
Updated (Sept): if you want to know more about IDFA, its history and predecessors, here's a great article from one of our partners, AdColony.
We have a similar example with the Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari. It was disruptive. Developers and advertisers complained. But Apple stood firm like a tree.
Should I change my app on GooglePlay and other Stores too?
Right now, there is no need to make changes on GooglePlay or any other stores.
The same way Apple has IDFA, Google has GAID (Google Advertising ID). They haven’t made any statement about “killing” GAID, but now that Apple has thrown the first stone, it wouldn’t be surprising that other companies follow.
However, the industry experts say that Google may change its privacy policies in the not-so-distant future. So be ready.