5 Things You Need To Know About Device Detection


7/13/2018 9:00 AM

Device Detection 51Degrees Device Data Opinion

and why User Agent Strings are important

1 What is Device Detection?

Device Detection is the process of capturing accurate real-time intelligence about the devices being used to access online information, including web and native apps. This Device Intelligence is used to identify where online content is performing best on any device, regardless of screen size. It enables businesses to analyse traffic, tailor content, optimize user experience and increase conversion rates. In many cases, the solution is plugged into a real-time environment server-side, where high volumes of web requests are being processed or where sub-millisecond performance is critical.

With over 220 device properties available, the device data provided by 51Degrees is far more granular compared to something like Google analytics. It also facilitates the exclusion of Bot/Crawler traffic, enabling accurate targeting of real users, faster page load times which results in better customer experience and, for companies’ bottom line, increased revenue from higher conversion rates. That’s something everyone wants!

How can I access this Device Intelligence and see for myself?

That’s where 51Degrees come in. Our goal is to provide you with a better understanding of the Device Detection process and how it can benefit your business. And don’t worry, it’s a process that does not involve capturing any personally identifiable information from the devices detected. In other words, you don’t have to be concerned about Data Privacy implications!

If you want to skip reading further and just want to get started with a free trial, contact us for more information.

2 Who benefits from a Device Detection solution?

51Degrees Device Detection is used by over 1.5 million websites globally. The 51Degrees data file contains Device Intelligence indexed for web, apps, and telcos.

Brands & Ecommerce

Ensure your website does you justice and engage all targets regardless of screen size. Many of the world's leading brands including Adform, Basis Technologies, Dynata (Research Now), EPAM, Open Text Corporation, Sitecore, and more use our Device Intelligence. Don’t lose out on transactions that could not be completed on mobile devices because of poor content optimization.

Programmatic Advertising

Target more accurately, increase Ad viewability and customise creative for real users not ‘Bot’s’. Speed is critical in the Open RTB process and our solution is proven to be the fastest achieving 22 million detections per second with our latest algorithm.


Avoid slow page loading, Ads not appearing and abandoned site visits. Most publishers cram in too much content and if you were to print it all out it can measure at least 5 metres tall! Refer to our animated video on this topic! You need an adaptive approach with server-side optimization, fuelled with accurate device data to increase your advertising revenue.

Digital Agencies

Data from your clients’ end users’ online footprint provides valuable insights into their online behaviour and purchase intentions. Integrating the best Device Intelligence into your toolset ensures your clients get the best results. Alternatively, deploy our solution for your own benefits!

Web Content Management Systems

Your platform is dependent on accurate Device Intelligence to enable adaptive design that converts revenue. Our solution works with over 20 leading content management systems.

Web & Native Apps

Get real-time granular specifications of the devices downloading and accessing Apps (both Web and Native Apps). Personalise the user experience and increase user base intelligence.

Sites that have not adapted for mobile lose out. Fact.

53% of mobile visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. DoubleClick

3 How does Device Detection work?

Every time a website is visited a User-Agent is transmitted along with the request containing information used to determine the client device’s properties. Although this is not the only information used for device detection, it’s a very important part of the detection process.

User-Agent header values - usually referred to as “User-Agent strings” - adhere loosely to a number of conventions but don’t obey any strict rules. Finding a way of using the information they contain to yield accurate values for component properties that is fast and accurate is a key differentiator when choosing a device detection solution.

The User-Agent string contains segments of information which indicate the three main components that are associated with a device (Hardware model, OS and Browser). The example below is for a Samsung smartphone using Android OS and Chrome browser.

User-Agent String Example

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 8.0.0; SM-G960F Build/R16NW) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/64.0.3282.137 Mobile Safari/537.36

But what if you need to know the screen size for a device, or the price band for a specific model when it was first released, or any other additional device property which your process requires? That's where we can help by matching this User-Agent String or the Apple device information to our global database of enhanced device data for over >50,000 unique device models and circa 1 million device combinations of hardware model, OS and browsers. The device types include Smartphones, Tablets, Feature Phones, Consoles, eReaders, MediaHubs, Smartwatches, and TVs.

Process Summary

Fig 1. Example of how Device Detection works
  1. Request for a website received by website or content management system.
  2. 51Degrees high-performance device detection uses fingerprints (HTTP headers including user agents) relating to circa 1 million device models, browser and operating system combinations to work out the type of device in less than 1 millisecond.
  3. Your website returns a page optimized for the precise screen and device type ensuring maximum performance and the best user experience every time.

Can you detect Apple iPhones and iPads devices?

The method explained above works effectively for the majority of devices. But Apple devices are different since they block some of the device information that can be detected. We apply a different method for iPhones and iPads. Refer to this blog to get insights on how we can support you in detecting iPhones and iPads effectively.

Device Combinations

51Degrees has a database of almost 1 million device combinations as well as 10’s of millions of unique User-Agents processed since 2011.

We are continually adding to this database, providing information such as retail price, vendor, screen size, device age and many more permutations of device properties, to help you customise your content for your target users. The type of information available is quite varied. This document focuses on three components. Each component has a set of associated properties and values.

Three key components used in the process:

  • Physical Device (Smartphone, Tablet, TV etc.)
  • Operating System (Android, iOS etc.)
  • Web Browser / Application (Google, Facebook and LinkedIn etc.)

A way to visualise this is as a cube with these components as dimensions. The cube is always expanding, as new device models come into the market and new versions of operating system and browser come into use.

Fig 2. Device Combinations key components

4 Who are 51Degrees?

We are a UK based team of tech-geeks who are committed to helping our customers improve and optimize their digital experiences.

Our data helps companies like yours to reduce both the cost and time involved in creating, testing and deploying mobile websites. We help you ensure that screen size and tech don’t get in the way of the user experience.

We're trusted by millions of people.

We know because over 1.5 million active deployments in virtually every country around the world use our Device Detection software day in and day out. Our active customer community tells us what they need and we work hard every day to deliver on our promises. Big brand customers use 51Degrees. Check out our case studies and see what our clients say about us, including the immediate results they achieved post-implementation.

We are THE fastest and the MOST accurate Device Detection service there is.

This may be easy to say (and for others to claim!), but our evidence is not in dispute. Our accuracy comes from our device combinations database - at almost 1 million it’s the largest. It’s not locked up in a vault designed for the last decade or getting dusty on a shelf - it’s checked and updated every day because we know that approximately >170 device models are launched worldwide every week. Our performance speeds are awesome too. Capable of more than 22 million detections a second we're the fastest available.

51Degrees is an open source Device Detection solution permissively licenced under the Mozilla Public Licence 2 (MPL2). 51Degrees has 3 granted patents in the US and Europe, with 3 pending. Read more about our industry firsts.

Users of 51Degrees APIs have the option of automatically sharing usage back with 51Degrees growing the ground truth source, which in turn benefits everyone. 51Degrees also offer a subscription to enhanced data files which contain a wider range of characteristics and Device Combinations. These can be provided weekly or daily depending on your requirements.

It’s easy to start using 51Degrees via Github or with a commercial trial. All free.

5 What are the Product Options?

At 51Degrees rather than pretending that one size can fit all, control and choice are in the hands of the implementer. Sports cars and tractors are made of very similar things, an engine, 4 wheels and so on, but are used for very different purposes. A muddy field would not be ploughed with a sports car. Only 51Degrees recognises this and provides you with a practical choice.

Free or subscription-based solution?

51Degrees provide free open source and subscription-based solutions. We recognised multiple algorithms are needed for Device Detection depending on the intended use and as a result, offer two core options. ‘Hash’ is our fastest algorithm preferred by sectors such as Adtech. This algorithm can retrieve up to 22 million detections per second. ‘Pattern’ tends to be the preferred choice where speed is not such a high priority.

Our Device Detection product options are summarised below highlighting the various API’s that our solution supports as well as the choice of Algorithms, On-Premise and Cloud product options. You can also refer to the licensing and pricing details or our developer documentation on our website.

Fig 3. Supported API’s and Product Options. n/a not applicable, ‚óŹ available, X not available

What our clients say about us:

Increased our tablet traffic by 300% Niall HughesSenior Website Developer, GiveMeSport
Number of mobile sessions has increased by 220% over last 2 years and mobile conversion rate has increased by site is 2.7 times faster than comparable responsive design sites...Allows us to serve up a site that is faster and tailored to mobile devices Dave McDermidLead Software Engineer, Wiggle
51Degrees offers the best accuracy and performance. It was the obvious choice. Mario WitteCTO, Team Internet AG a Matomy Media Group Company
51Degrees provides highly accurate device detection in a fast-paced and dynamic ecosystem with new phone models, OS versions and platforms announced almost daily Feliksas NalivaikaProduct Director, Buyer Platform - Adform
Good user experience is vital, and the only way to do this is to adapt coding and style for each device type. Upgrading to Premium Device Data gave us this ability and enabled us to offer a great experience to all of our users. Paolo StreminPortal Manager,

We are happy to answer any questions you may have. You can contact us or speak to our team directly on: +44 118 328 7152