New wave of App Store rejections suggests iOS 14.5, new iPad may be imminent | GeekComparison

Five iPhones on a table
enlarge The 2020 iPhone lineup. From left to right: iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12, iPhone SE, and iPhone 12 mini.

Apple has started rejecting app submissions that don’t comply with its updated privacy policy regarding device fingerprinting and user tracking, according to a report in Forbes. This move strongly suggests that the release of iOS 14.5 – and possibly new hardware products – is imminent.

Here’s an excerpt from the rejection letter that some developers told Forbes they received:

Guidance 5.1.2 – Legal – Privacy – Use and sharing of data

In our review, we determined that your app collects user and device data to create a unique identifier for the user’s devices. Apps that fingerprint the user’s device in this way violate the Apple Developer Program License Agreement and are not eligible for the App Store.

Specifically, your app uses algorithmically converted device and usage data to create a unique ID to track the user. The device data collected by your app may include defaultManager, NSLocaleCollationIdentifier, NSLocaleCountryCode, NSLocaleQuotationEndDelimiterKey, and NSLocaleGroupingSeparator.

Under Section 3.3.9 of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement, neither you nor your app may use a permanent, device-based identifier or any data derived from it to uniquely identify a device.

This notice to developers makes it clear that affected apps are in violation because they use a technique that attempts to track the user without permission (device fingerprinting). A few months ago, Apple announced plans to implement “App Tracking Transparency,” where apps would have to request user login to track them using IDFAs, a common tracking tool essential to many targeted advertising techniques. This change drew the ire of Facebook and other companies that rely on that kind of tracking to maximize ad revenue. But it’s also clear that app tracking transparency means apps that try to track users in any way, IDFA or otherwise, will be rejected. Device fingerprinting has often been used as an alternative to IDFA when users or platforms prevent the use of IDFA.

Mobile marketing analyst Eric Seufert told Forbes that many thousands of apps could be rejected because, for at least some, the breach appears to be caused by an SDK from mobile analytics company Adjust; the company claims the SDK is used in more than 50,000 apps. Adjust has updated the SDK to remove at least some of the infringing functionality, but not all developers are using the latest version.

Why this means iOS 14.5 is just around the corner

While Apple recently updated its developer guidelines to reflect the new tracking policy, the company has previously said that app tracking transparency would be enforced in the App Store starting with the release of iOS 14.5 sometime this spring. The fact that apps are already rejected on these grounds today makes a compelling case that several other Apple features and products are now just days away.

iOS 14.5 (and its close brother iPadOS 14.5, which will almost certainly launch on the same day as the iPhone software) is expected to be a major feature update to the mobile operating system. Based on what we’ve seen in recent betas, iOS 14.5 will include a feature that will unlock Face ID devices with a synced Apple Watch when wearing a protective mask, numerous changes and tweaks to Siri, global dual-SIM support 5G (previously only available in China), support for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S controllers, hundreds of new emoji, and the aforementioned ad-tracking change.

Product launches may also be imminent

When Apple releases new hardware products, they are usually timed with new versions of the operating systems that those products use. For example, an updated version of iOS usually comes out the same week a new iPhone model ships.

Reports from normally reliable sources have repeatedly predicted that Apple will announce a new iPad Pro model sometime in the spring. Based on the history and some reports, it looked like that would happen at the end of March, but this expected time frame came and went. However, the product is still likely to arrive soon, meaning an event sometime in April seems likely.

For that reason, the fact that Apple is now starting to enforce this iOS 14.5-related rule on app developers may add to the evidence that a new iPad is coming soon.

Apple is also expected to announce several new, higher-end Macs this year that are dropping Intel CPUs in favor of Apple Silicon, and one or more of those could be announced this spring. Furthermore, leaks and rumors keep claiming that Apple will soon introduce a Tile competitor with AR features, although several launch windows for that product have appeared and disappeared in recent years.

Apple is also known to be working on some sort of mixed reality headset, most likely focused primarily on augmented reality experiences. Some insiders have said the product could be announced this year, though we expect Apple to announce an entirely new category like that at the company’s developer conference in June rather than at a smaller, consumer-focused spring product launch event. And it remains possible that the announcement of the mixed reality headset is even further away.

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