iOS 16.4 and Its Impact on eCommerce Brands

Join us as we dive deep into the buzz surrounding Apple's iOS 16.4 release, examining its effects on Facebook ad performance and server-side data tracking.

This week, there's been quite a buzz about Apple's iOS 16.4 release and its potential effects on eCommerce brands. Some folks are worried that this update might affect server-side data tracking by restricting data sharing and shortening cookie lifespans to just 7 days. But don't worry! Here at Popsixle, we haven't noticed any decrease in the data we're able to collect, nor any changes in Facebook ad performance due to iOS 16.4, which has been live since March 27th, 2023.

To give you a better understanding and some peace of mind, we've thoroughly investigated this topic:

  1. We've gathered all the information we could from the most trustworthy sources.
  2. We closely examined our own data to check if we could confirm or debunk the theory that iOS 16.4 has negatively impacted Facebook/Meta ad performance.

When you look for info on the actual changes in iOS 16.4, you'll mostly find consumer-oriented features (like cool new emojis) and tips on how to use them. After all, as a mobile operating system update, iOS 16.4 aims to make Apple device users happy.

The only source that specifically talks about how iOS 16.4 affects data sharing is Apple itself. This webpage has a detailed changelog related to security. At the bottom of the page, you'll find three updates most relevant to consumer data, data sharing, and server-side tracking:

  • Transparency, Consent and Control
    • Impact: An app may be able to access user-sensitive data
    • Description: This issue was addressed by removing the vulnerable code.
  • WebKit
    • Impact: Processing maliciously crafted web content may bypass Same Origin Policy
    • Description: This issue was addressed with improved state management.
  • WebKit
    • Impact: A website may be able to track sensitive user information
    • Description: The issue was addressed by removing origin information.

The information from Apple doesn't give us a lot of specifics on how these security updates might affect eCommerce brands. It mainly talks about security vulnerabilities that have been identified and fixed, without mentioning any particular features designed to limit data sharing or cookie expiration.

Now, let's take a look at some concerns shared on social media:


As a company specializing in server-side data processing, we dove into our dataset, which includes over 1 billion data points from hundreds of customers. Our mission was to answer two key questions:

  1. Has there been any change in Facebook ad performance since March 27th that could be attributed to iOS 16.4?
  2. Have we seen any reduction in the data we can collect and process after March 27th that would quantify the impact of iOS 16.4?

Check out these two graphs that present a comprehensive view of Facebook ad performance for over 300 active ad accounts:

rolling avg ROAS trend v2

We used a 7-day rolling average to examine how ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) and CPA (Cost per Acquisition) have been trending over time.

ROAS has seen a slight decline since early March, but there's no dramatic shift or drop after March 27th. On the other hand, CPA trends have remained quite stable, with virtually no change in the past five weeks. The minor decrease in ROAS, while CPA stays consistent, can be attributed to a reduction in average order value, possibly due to seasonal factors or a slight change in consumer spending habits.

We found no evidence of any performance changes related to iOS 16.4.

Furthermore, we checked our server logs to compare the rates at which we've been capturing essential data points. We focused on cookie-derived data points from iOS devices that shared data via WebKit – the built-in browser users access after clicking a Facebook or Instagram ad. If any data loss were happening, it would most significantly impact this exact data for these exact users.

Take a look at this graph displaying the capture rates of cookie data from iOS devices over the past month.

capture rates 2

Across both data type 1 and data type 2, capture rates vary. Although daily fluctuations are visible, there's no noticeable change or decrease in capture rates following iOS 16.4's release on March 27th.

Here are our takeaways:

We remember that iOS 14's launch in Q1 2021 didn't have an immediate negative impact; it took a few months for ad performance to decline and for eCommerce brands to feel the full effect. With this in mind, we'll keep a close eye on both performance and data capture rates.

Details about the iOS 16.4 release and any potential features designed to limit data sharing or speed up cookie expiration remain scarce. We're continuously seeking and gathering all relevant information, connecting with other experts, and collecting as much data as possible. If you come across pertinent articles or have contacts at other data processing companies with their own first-party data analysis, please share or introduce them to us.

For now, we don't see any negative impact from iOS 16.4 on Popsixle customers. We'll continue to share updates on this topic as new information becomes available.

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