Multi Stage Approach to Apple iOS Device Detection

Maria Gray

5/9/2019 3:56 PM

Apple iOS iPhone iPad Development Device Data News

51Degrees ensure an enduring, accurate and high performance solution to Apple iOS device detection

As you may already know, with the release of iOS 12.2, Apple removed some vital information which allowed device detection solutions to accurately identify Apple devices. Read more about what changed in iOS 12.2.

Given the popularity of iPhones and iPads, and the importance of being able to efficiently and accurately identify the types of devices accessing your website, we have been hard at work identifying an enduring solution.

Stage One

At the end of April, we released the first of a multi-stage solution to customers. In parallel, we released an open source project to identify the GPU model of Apple devices running on iOS 12.2 and higher. These enhancements form part of a patent application and are documented in this blog.

The solution involves analysing the differences in how a complex image is displayed on a webpage (hidden to users). The subtle differences allow us to determine the GPU which, when combined with other device properties, allows us to accurately identify the Apple device model, or substantially narrow the possibilities.

Currently the first phase enables detection of many iPad and iPhone models. However configuration such as zoom mode, overlooked by many competing solutions, will be addressed in the next stage. At the time of writing the following groups may be returned.

Model Groups Zoom Mode Impact
iPhone 6S and iPhone 7
iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 6S, iPhone 7 and iPhone SE returned if either the 6S or 7 is in 'zoom' mode
iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max returned if the XS Max is in 'zoom' mode
iPad Pro 12.9 and iPad Pro 12.9 2nd generation
iPad 5, iPad 6, iPad Pro 9.7 iPad Pro 12.9 and iPad Pro 12.9 2nd generation returned if either the 12.9 or 12.9 2nd generation is in 'zoom' mode
iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4
iPad Air 1, iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3
iPad, iPad 2 (Wi-Fi)
iPhone and iPad model groups where precise model can't yet be identified

Stage Two

At the heart of the design objective is the requirement to minimise the possibility of Apple disabling the solution again in future versions of iOS. As such, information that Apple could manipulate to break the solution, such as the screen’s colour gamut, has not been relied upon.

The next update will be made in Q2 2019 where we expect to identify all makes and models of iPhone with both the current and future versions of iOS.

You can read more about the technical details of the solution in our blog.