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iPad device registers as Mac

Richard Korts
Last Modified: 2020-04-21
I have a php program that uses $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'] to determine the device type.

A user claims they are using an iPad, they get the attached (I just echoed the result of $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'] on the server).

Why does this occur?
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

iphones identify as such, but it looks like this ipad identifies itself as a mac.  

whatismybrowser indicates that an ipad should identify itself as such early on in the ident string.  The ident being supplied by the ipad does not resemble those listed by whatismybrowser.  Possibly a browser spoofing plugin in the ipad's browser?


e.g., Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 12_4_5 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/12.1.2 Mobile/15E148 Safari/604.1
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2019

This occurs because you're using an Apple Browser which leverages the WebKit libraries...

Every browser + many other software tools provide a HTTP_USER_AGENT which should always be treated as bogus.

All Apple browsers (not devices) return an AppleWebKit user agent string + can also return other strings... depending on the purpose of the tool.

If you run PhantomJS on a Linux or Windows machine, you'll still see HTTP_USER_AGENT containing AppleWebKit, because PhantomJS uses the WebKit libraries.

The way to think about this is the HTTP_USER_AGENT provides a hint of the browser running on the other end, not anything about the device hardware.

Also be sure your treat HTTP_USER_AGENT as a hint, because this string is trivial to forge.
Richard KortsBusiness Owner / Chief Developer


On my iPad, doing exactly the same thing, it says: Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS_12_4_5 like Mac OS X), AppleWebKit/605.1.15 etc.

My simple minded read of this is that the iPad returning a Mac designation has an older version of the Mac OS (10 something instead of 12 something).

Is there any way of detecting the device?

Simple Geek from the '70s
Distinguished Expert 2019
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Richard KortsBusiness Owner / Chief Developer


OK, so there is no way to detect the device in php.


David Johnson, CDSimple Geek from the '70s
Distinguished Expert 2019

did you not see the different version numbers after webkit/

This problem is over a year old, Apple knew about it in the beta stage and ignored it.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

As David says, the user-agent string is not something to be safely relied upon for anything important.

If there is some critical issue that requires knowing when an ipad is on the requesting end, you could profile the display and look at the installed fonts -- but it seems like a lot of work to prevent somebody from seeing a display which was not intended to be seen on a tiny screen.  Caveat lector is a more practical policy there.
Richard KortsBusiness Owner / Chief Developer


David Johnson,

I get your point, assuming it "sticks". 'll try the webkit number ID, see where that goes.

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