iOS 5 Disables Cookies & Breaks Loads of Sites

  • 0
  • December 5, 2011

A little known feature of the latest iOS 5 software for the iPhone is that it disables cookies by default. I wasn’t aware of this until yesterday when I tried to book a hotel and was trying to browse three of the largest travel websites – Premier Inn, Late Rooms and Travelodge and none of them were working.

All these sites detect your user agent, set a cookie and then display the mobile version of the site. In iOS 5 this results in a redirect loop which I only fixed by enabling cookies in the settings, something that most users wouldn’t know they needed to do.

I’m guessing that there are thousands of sites out there that suddenly are seeing very low conversion rates from iOS 5 users. Certainly any sites that rely on cookies need to figure out a new way of working with iPhones.

This just goes to show the importance of a weekly reporting system that shows traffic and conversion rates for different browsers & operating systems.

There are loads of threads on various forums from users saying they can’t login to services after the iOS 5 update.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Craig Addyman

    Oh Apple that is a massive ifail

  • Neil Browning

    Shouldn’t the sites in question be using some kind of user agent string recognition to push the user to the correct version of the site?

  • Dennis Harrison

    I have updated 9 devices to iOS 5. And 3 to iOS 5.0.1. The behavior on all of those by default was to accept cookies from sites you’ve visited (have been in the URL bar).

    What are the circumstances you’re seeing a different default?

    These devices I’m talking about are all iPad 2s and iPhone 4s.


    • Patrick Altoft

      Dennis – mine was setup to “accept cookies – never” by default when I upgraded. Even the way you have seen would be bad for new users to a site.

      • Dennis Harrison

        Which device do you have, and what iOS version did you upgrade from?

        And yes, you’re right about the setting ‘accept from visited’ being bad for users of certain sites.

        However, the site you’re currently on is immediately added to the list of allowed sites. I think you run into a problem with that setting when you have a request to an external site which wants to do something with a cookie, that you haven’t had directly in the url bar up to that point.

        I think it’s still the proper default though, to only accept cookies from directly visited sites. It’s a likely happy medium for ‘good enough’ish security.

        I am currently working on a project which will involve managing 186 iPad 2s, and some of those are on varying iOS versions, and of different 3g configurations. So, there lies my interest in you having a different experience than I’ve seen so far.

        Thank you for your time


        • Patrick Altoft

          I’m on an iPhone 4 and not sure which previous OS version it had.

  • Eric J

    Mine was set to accept from visited after a complete wipe from an apple “genius” after my battery issues which a complete wipe did fix the problem.

  • simon

    I am assuming there is talk of 3rd party cookies here (adwords) whereas 1st party cookies (analytics) are not affected?

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  • Matthias

    I have actually seen that the setting has changed itself several times on my iPhone. I set it to from visited and at some point in the day or days it goes back to never.

  • Rob

    I’ve been seeing the exact same issue with iOS 5, both on my 3GS and my 4S that came with it. Really annoying, and it seems to happen randomly. I’ve tried to catch it in the act, but I usually only notice when a website doesn’t work properly. Most of the time it’s because cookies have mysteriously been set to ‘never’. This is actually the first posting that I’ve seen about this from someone else, so I’m happy that it’s not just me.

  • Rich Norton

    I see the effects of similar issues all the time. It’s not hard to fix, but it’s not the customer’s duty to fix it. Often, they’ll just go elsewhere.

    Some customers don’t even like using cookies at all, mostly out of a fear that their privacy is being invaded or because they worry that cookies could be malicious executable files instead of text.

    This becomes the company’s problem very quickly.

    Thanks for the article, it explained a little quirk in our demographics.

    Rich Norton.

  • Kevin Blumer

    People still fear cookies they think there going to hack into there bank accounts and wild suggestions. so anything that allows people to turn them off they will be need to be told what they are being used for then people will not fear them as much.

  • Wanda
  • Billigt tøj

    That is *not* a great “feature” Apple. I heard about this the other day when my colleague had some problems testing a website on his iPhone 4S we developed.

  • Warren Lotto

    Why can’t they tell us when they change things like this? I know of 3 people who went to the apple store with this problem and 2 of them got it fixed but were not told how or why the problem occurred and the third was told to try and replace the item from the original store. Thanks, Ill pass this knowledge on.

  • Website Design Hertfordshire

    iOS5 is a great software for the iPhone but it still lacks speed. The amount of time I find it crashes when I’m viewing websites is appalling.

  • Owen frager

    This is happening on my iMac very frustrating all of a sudden something switches preferences from always accept to block
    I think it’s a Safari thing

  • Jason Scott

    Having lived with the iOS5 software for the past month or so I can safely say I’m impressed, I honestly feel that its quick and the interface is easy to navigate. This is obviosly a small spanner in the works but all in all I think apple have done good!

  • dog registry

    that’s why I don’t like to rely too much on hosted services…something always goes wrong, and you have no control over it.

  • Kevin Cook

    Well the technology always has a loop hole and so it has no wonder that their are some technical issueis with all high end equipments…. where is the testing team.

  • GeorgeOfTheJungle


    Does anyone know any good daily deal sites where you can see a bunch of offers for the UK, most of the ones I see are made for the USA or some other far away country.

    The only two I know are and and both don`t seem to have that many good offers on ?

    Anyone know any others ?


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