The simple reason why no ad network is at 100% SKAN 4 yet (and won’t be for years)

By John Koetsier March 4, 2024

About 4 months ago Reddit announced SKAN 4 support and went all in on the latest version of Apple’s privacy-focused mobile attribution framework. Almost immediately, Reddit’s percentage of SKAdNetwork postbacks hit close to 90% SKAN 4. Fast forward to today and the content-focused social platform is at 95% SKAN 4 … but not 100% SKAN 4.

Super high, right?

But not 100%. Even though they’re agonizingly close.

Why not?

No network can be 100% SKAN 4 (yet)

The simple truth is that no ad network or platform can be 100% SKAN 4, even with their absolute best efforts. 

The reason is simple: the requirements for delivering a SKAN 4 postback are not entirely under their control.

100% SKAN 4 requirements

In order for a SKAN 4 postback to be issued, at least 2 things need to be true:

  1. Ad network encodes a SKAN 4 click
  2. iOS device is running 16.1 or higher

The first is under an ad network’s control. The second, of course, is not: it’s purely dependent on the people who choose to use services that an ad network is facilitating ads on, and the devices they own.

SKAN 4 won’t reach 100% (at least for years)

As of January of this year, almost 19% of iOS devices were running some operating system pre 16.1, with the lion’s share stuck on iOS 15.8. 

Apple provides years of updates for devices, but some just age out, with their hardware unable to support modern software.

For instance, an iPhone 6 that was originally sold on Sept 9, 2015 can be upgraded to iOS 15.8, released in October of 2023. But iOS 15.8 is really just a security fix, and any additional upgrades that arrive for devices this old are likely to be the same.

So 100% of iOS devices will essentially never reach 100%, at least for years. Which means we’re stuck with some percentage of SKAN 3 postbacks for the foreseeable future.

But … it’s not like it matters

20% SKAN 3 is kind of a deal. Or at least it will be when SKAN 4 is fully and truly operational at ecosystem scale. But it won’t stay here forever.

People will keep buying new devices and selling their old ones. Old iPhones will eventually give up the ghost or enter a third or fourth life as remote control or backup. And so the problem will become increasingly less important over time as the percentage of old devices steadily shrinks. We won’t see 100% SKAN 4 for years, but we’ll get close enough to not matter pretty quickly.

Ready for SKAN 4?

We’re starting to see SKAN 4 slowly grow, getting close to the 50% of SKAN postbacks mark as networks like Reddit and Meta start to transition.

If you’re not ready yet, now is the time to get ready.

Here’s everything you need to get started.

You’ll get a summary of the changes, details on how to deal with each of the major changes from SKAN 3 to SKAn 4, and tips for building your SKAN 4 growth strategy.

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