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When is an iPhone not an iPhone?

All iPhones are equal, but some are more equal than others. A philosophical end to the week from Netbiscuits? Not really, but I would like to take a second and talk about a significant development we’ve seen this week, and one which marketers will be talking more about over the coming months for sure. 

When you build a mobile strategy for your customers, you cannot help but think about the myriad of feature phones, smartphones, tablets and other flavour of devices out there. We’re talking literally thousands of different devices, with very unique profiles all impacting how users engage with the mobile web. Businesses want a simple but effective solution for this, so we see a lot of screen scraping technologies and more recently responsive design solutions trying to address the plethora of screen sizes and differences in device capabilities. Responsive take basic device knowledge and serves up an experience based on that profile.

The problem here? Device detection and an intricate understanding of that device. To understand why that’s important, let’s make a comparison. A policeman is on the motorway and over the radio he is told there is a red car speeding at 100mph and heading towards him. The issue is that there are hundreds of red cars on the motorway, which is the one he wants. If he was given a make and model, or better still the registration number, then he could work out exactly which car it was and act accordingly.

Heading back to the world of the mobile web, marketers need to know exactly which device they are dealing with, because the seemingly subtle differences in screen size, functionality, battery life, touch screen etc can have a big impact on the user experience. It isn’t enough to know the phone is simply an iPhone any more. Which is why the Netbiscuits team is delighted to announce we now have 97% accuracy for detecting iPhone devices and a 99% accuracy detection rate for the iPad. This means we can give our customers the ability to make a distinction, for example between the iPhone 5C and 5S or the iPad and iPad mini and serve up an adaptive mobile experience that fits that device – in short, we believe we now have the market’s iOS device detection.

If you’re a marketer taking the time to understand which device your customers are using, then why wouldn’t you want to go a step further and build up a deeper picture of the specific make, model, operating system and other specific characteristics? These are the factors which will ultimately define the user experience – if you don’t know what these parameters are then you are essentially flying blind and relying on guesswork when building for the mobile web.