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A device ID is a distinct and anonymous identifier consisting of a combination of alphanumeric characters linked to a solitary mobile device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or wearable device like a smartwatch.

What Is a Device ID?

The device ID is devoid of any personally identifiable details, like names, emails, addresses, or credit card numbers. It can be accessed by any app installed on the device, enabling marketers and developers to track users’ in-app activities and campaign interactions without accessing personal information.

However, recent times have witnessed a significant shift towards consumer privacy, favoring aggregated data over individual-level data. A pivotal change was Apple’s introduction of AppTrackingTransparency (ATT), compelling app proprietors to obtain user consent for accessing their device IDs – more details to follow.

Types of Device IDs

Two primary types of device IDs exist: Apple employs the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), while Android utilizes the Google Advertiser ID (GAID). Both function similarly, associating user actions with ad campaigns, installations, and in-app engagements.

The Apple IDFA is presented in uppercase, comprising eight digits, a dash, and three sets of four digits. An example:

Device ID: Apple IDFA example

GAID employs the same structure but employs lowercase letters:

Device ID: Android GAID example

Notably, post iOS 14.5, access to the IDFA depends on user consent. Further details will be discussed later.

Device ID Applications

Device IDs are primarily employed by app marketers to assess pre-install engagement, installations, and post-install in-app activities. They are crucial for attributing marketing endeavors and charting user journeys. Matching device IDs with user interactions is a dependable method of attribution due to its deterministic nature.

Deterministic attribution hinges on the device ID to recognize users across multiple channels, ensuring precise measurement of user behavior. Moreover, device IDs facilitate personalized user experiences, delivering relevant ads and services based on user behavior and preferences. These IDs aid in refining audience segmentation by grouping users according to device type, usage patterns, and more.

Lastly, device IDs empower app owners to comprehend user engagement levels by aggregating in-app event data. This insight assists in identifying patterns of user engagement, such as drop-offs, conversions, and loyalty development.

Functioning of Device IDs

The device ID is retrievable by any installed app upon its initial launch. Subsequently, it is employed for attribution purposes, associating installs with previous activities. Consider attributing an app install:

A user clicks on an ad for an app, leading them to the relevant app store (Google Play or Apple App Store) for downloading. Following installation and the first launch, the app’s Attribution Software Development Kit (SDK) activates, recording the install. The SDK then searches its database for matching click or view IDs.

If a match is found within the attribution window, the ad is credited for facilitating the app’s installation.

How to Find Your Device ID

Discovering your device ID is straightforward, whether you own an Android or Apple device. For Android, input “##3455##” into the keypad to access the GTalk service monitor and view your device ID.

Privacy Concerns and Recent Advances

Since iOS 14’s launch, Apple mandates that apps seek user consent to access their IDFA, aligning with their efforts towards enhanced consumer privacy. Before IDFA, Apple utilized a Unique Device Identifier (UDID), which couldn’t be reset, leading to privacy concerns and its eventual replacement in 2012.

In 2016, Apple introduced Limited Ad Tracking (LAT), enabling users to opt-out of tracking. Under Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework introduced in June 2020, app owners must obtain user permission to access their IDFA.

Future of Measurement with or without Device IDs

Amid growing privacy concerns, the future of measurement shifts towards aggregated data. One significant change is moving from user-level to aggregated data, eliminating individual measurement while focusing on trends. For iOS users opting into ATT, the device ID’s usage remains unchanged.

For opt-out users, alternative methods like SKAdNetwork, machine learning, predictive analytics, incrementality testing, and web-to-app flows emerge.

Key Insights

Device IDs have been pivotal for measurement and optimization in the mobile landscape. The rise of privacy-centric updates has slightly diminished their role, though they remain crucial tools for marketers’ success.

Device IDs facilitate precise user-action matching, and they offer audience segmentation for campaign enhancement. Under the ATT framework, access to the IDFA necessitates user permission. In its absence, SKAdNetwork, supplemented by other solutions, becomes essential for marketers’ needs.

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