Intro to Mobile Analytics

Mobile App Analytics

In this Episode of the App Business Podcast – Chris & David provide an intro to mobile analytics.

If the goal is to maximize value for your app portfolio, and decide when to re-invest or cut bait on an app – you need good data to make an informed decisions.  Good data for data driven decisions start with basic and advanced mobile analytics and a strong understanding of how to implement and analyze.  There is a great deal of potential to optimize your apps and make them better with analytics.  Knowing more than just the number of daily average users and actually tracking real engagement can help you move the dial to more revenues.  Measure, track, and improve user experience, and watch your app business take off.

  • In the News covering rating pop ups and their value
  • The different philosophies between Apple and Google/Android in curating
  • Intro to Mobile Analytics – How data helps you make decisions in your app business
  • Analytics Services/Offerings – App Annie, Flurry, Google Analytics, Apsalar
  • Paid Analytics tools – Mix Panel, Localytics
  • Custom Events/KPIs

Resources and Linked Mentioned in this Episode:


Chris: Hi and welcome to the App Business Podcast, you’re joined by Chris Chidgey here and we’ve got David Pfahler with us. Hey David.
David: Hi guys

Chris: And a, were gonna add a new feature, we’re gonna try to add a little more structure to the podcast today on an ongoing basis. Were gonna introduced much needed news feature, where at the beginning of each episode, we will discuss that are of interest to us or maybe that we think you guys might be interested in. And we’re hoping we’re all interested in the same stuff. So the first thing we’ll gonna be talking about, well, actually David before we jump in, anything in the news thats of interest to you right now

David: Well actually now, there was something, so I’m a listener of a podcast called The Talk Show with John Gruber and I’m sure a lot of our listeners may be familiar with Gruber so he’s a very influential journalist in the Apple/iOS appspace. So what was interesting is that the latest episode is about a controversy that is related to something I know that you’re using in your apps. And I wanted to get your opinion about this. So it basically happens in a lot of apps that your using for some time and then there’s a popup that is asking you to review it, to give it a review on iTunes. And this is of course because we use help you or especially go to review stuff you get more downloads. So the problem is that a lot people are really annoyed with getting this popups, especially getting them again and again even though they dismissed them. And so what Google was suggesting is that people basically abuse this dialog so they don’t dismiss it but rather go to iTunes and give a really bad review a 1 star review and basically telling the developer, “Hey, I really don’t like this and I’m giving you a 1 star review because you keep annoying me.” And I would really like to get your take on this, I know that there are guys that I rate which is a very popular framework to do this kind of feature, they actually reacted to Google’s critic and they actually change the options so you can actually now dismiss it forever. But what is your take on this?

Chris: Yeah, so I use, well I’ve used iRate, I’ve  used App-rator which was like a 3 piece of code and get hugged or App-rator 2 and then I’ve started building on the custom on, and I think we talked about this on another episode were Ive catch them on a high point and then If they had a problem, I would send them to customer support which was in email and if they like the app, I’d send them to the review page. So I kind of ended up building my own, but I agree. I think its crazy that we have to ask them to rate it. Yeah, so another point real quick is ratings are only helping users make a decision to download your app but also keys in to the rankings algorithm. So if you have a just like the number of downloads and velocity of downloads, same with ratings. Number of ratings, velocity of ratings plays into where you rank on a search term. So ratings are super important and they’re getting more important for Apple’s search algorithm. And to me thats crazy for a bunch of reasons. And Gruber talks about this on his blogpost. I didn’t hear the podcast but I see the blog post. Willing to post on the shownotes. But there’s so much data that is available that there is a better indication of my feeling about the app then my rating or review its ridiculous that he has a list of a bunch of things and some of them I don’t agree with like being currently installed – sure, being in the dark – sure, being on the first page or the second page – that isn’t relevant, I don’t manage my apps on the first or second page of my phone screen based on how much I like them. Usually its just first in, first out, whatever you know
David: I think statistically could be relevant. So I’m , somehow a little bit managing them. So the first page is really important. The second page, not so much. So for me its like, yeah, first in – first out, I’m not for the first page. So it could be statistically relevant for a certain segment of users

Chris: Right, right. But so there’s some other things like do you update it. Well even regularly updating doesn’t matter anymore. But, how about time spent in the app, that seems like that would be a good way, you know each category or type of app is gonna have different characteristics. But by category you can see which ones, DD it from the mean the most. There’s a lot of stuff that, that Apple has data or information on that is a better indicator than this review prompt. I agree, it just seems that there be a better way for, coz at the end of the day, its all about helping Apple give,provide good results to people searching and helping users make a decision. And there’s other data that is available than this review prompt. But before I go to the next point, what do you think about , do` you agree with me on that point? What do you think?

David: Yeah, I agree 100%. I mean, its the whole reason why such a piece of code exists is that it fixes a problem for the developers that should have been fixed by Apple a long time ago.

Chris: Yes, its masking Apple’s deficiency.

David: Yes, but the problem is that its masking the deficiency by taking away from the user experience.

Chris: Yes

David: And I think thats where the criticism go. Goes in where, maybe the developers get a little bit offended because they think, well, what am I supposed to do. Either I check away from the user experience or I take away from my own revenue.

Chris: People go will find my app, right?

David: Yeah, so I can understand that position as well. And its easy to say for Gruber coz he’s not dependent on some kind of app income or app downloads. I would say that I support his position more than the contrary position. So I think, you shouldn’t, shouldn’t overdo it with iRate. You should have a, should be able to dismiss it forever. So even only shows up once, that I think that’s what everybody’s okay with. But it keeps showing up, then that’s a big problem.

Chris: Yeah, yeah I agree. And I think it really comes down to, its a piece of code that’s covering of Apple’s deficiencies and I’ve noticed this more and more with Apple that it seems like a lot of the developer/publisher efforts are going in to masking what is otherwise an Apple problem, like you know requesting ratings when there’s so many better ways to analyse whether an app is useful or relevant to a search or you know things like that. Something else kind of related is, you know Apple is a search company and Google is. Google has ratings as well but their apps are childer, its much more related to their web surge , you know websites surge algorithms than it is to anything that Apple has. Theres no ratings, no ratings velocity, as far as I know. But so the pressures aren’t the same and kind of related to that you see Apple now introducing video in one of their apps. Let me see what, I think its Clumsy Ninja. So David and I are both part of a mobile community and its And its a community of publishers and developers and marketers and there’s a feature, a weekly feature like whats in the news or something like that. And something that we were, that I was aware of but also was in this recent posting was Apple has their first video, kind of as a preview like where the screenshots would go for an app called Clumsy Ninja. And that’s a real popular app or it is now. But it is the only app in the App Store that has video whereas Google has had video as part of their apps for, I don’t know. A year? 18 months? Maybe thats the beginning. And it just shows another, it shows to me that while Android has been, from my perspective coming from behind quite a bit. Now, number of devices, number of users, those are all in Android favor but time in on the web. Time in apps, OS, you know updated versions, those kinds of things. Money spent per device tend to be heavily in Apple’s favor. It still seems that Android is able or Google is able to execute some of these things that are better higher level, that provide a better user experience. Things like lolling video, things like not requiring ratings, things like letting the market decide if a niche app is requested or not. Or instead of like a reviewer somewhere in Cupertino saying “Hey, no. We don’t want another version of this app.” Even though there’s 30 of them out there, you know. So it seems to me that Google has got the right direction and now Apple’s  planning to catch up. Am I overreacting or you think that’s a fair analysis?

David: I think its a typical move to own the, like do this for one company. So its like, you pay the testing this with one app, great. Thats not something that Google would usually do. So I think it really shows the deficiencies and where the philosophies of the different companies both Apple and Google where they have left strengths and weaknesses. So, if Google does such a feature, it just works and it works for everybody

Chris: Yes

David: And when Apple does such a feature you never know if its going to, like I’m not even sure if its going to land really soon. So it would be like a really typical thing to say, “Hey, FaceTime will be an open standard.”  And then you never heard anything about it. Thats kind of what Apple does and its the same year where, well yeah now some app has video maybe we’ll also get it. Who knows?

Chris: Right

David: Why are, like why this app and are they going to favor certain kinds of partners now, you give them video and others not? So you never know and it just shows such nice example I guess.

Chris: Yeah but the difference to me between the two and this is probably a , you know maybe I’m reading too much Ian Ryan or something but which I haven’t it seems like Apple is like curated, there really focus on curating and protecting their user base from crappy apps or crappy experiences. And Google is like no, we’ll let the market decide. The market is, this people can make decisions like them. Lets post everything and let them decide and give great tools for helping them decide. Things like having videos when you go to CNET.

David: So, of the curation would work, I tend to agree that that’s  a valid strategy but it doesn’t. I mean its not like the new App Store is full of just high quality curate apps

Chris: Right

David: In terms of like what I can feel with the difference as a human that I can feel. Theres none, like I don’t profit. I don’t benefit from the curation that Apple does in any way. Maybe when you talked about viruses and stuff like that, maybe Malware protection. But I don’t think I get a much better results set when I’m looking for something on the App Store versus the Google Play Store.

Chris: Yeah, totally agree. Totally agree. And I just don’t believe that, you know, in the global marketplace that were all competing in and where I could, there could be a great game coming out of South Korea or India and I have some you know 22 year old American chic living in San Francisco or Bay Area curating all these apps unique enough to be blast with a seal of approval on the store when there’s you know, I don’t know. I just don’t like the curation thing. I don’t want people keeping content from me. I want to be able to see it. But maybe thats what people, you know I’m new at Apple. I’m new to, my first Mac was when I started you know the development company, or the publishing company, so maybe that’s what their strategy has been. I just don’t think, I don’t know if that works long term, I mean it doesn’t. I don’t think it works for me, you know. I’d rather be able to make the choices on my own. So I think, I think I’m gonna start moving much more to Android and seeing if I can’t really figure out whats going on there. And who knows, that you know, the spend in the apps are already even. So its just different per device but first offer it doesn’t matter how much is per device. Because you build it once, it can support, it can scale to infinity. So, yeah, it must be something to watch, you know.

David: Absolutely.

Chris: Okay

David: Lets go on to today’s topic, right?

Chris: Yeah, lets do it. So, okay. One of the approaches David and I wanted to take over the next several episodes was we’ve been talking a lot about, you know let’s say you have a portfolio. 3-5 to a hundred apps, and you’re wondering what actions to take besides for just  you know bug fixing and maybe adding a new feature. But where do you invest, where do you spend your money, your time and your developer’s time. What things do you do so how do we improve on our decision making with our app portfolio and of course David and I are both  like this. We both wanna make them not based on intuition but data. And so we thought we would do a series on Mobile Analytics. And how to get data in our apps, and what data to track and how it helps us make decisions and what we can do with that data. So kind of as a first step for that, we wanted to get in to just the very basics of count it like getting started with analytics and we figured the good place to start was just how simple implementation is just for basic Mobile Analytics, and some of the services that we views and we like and just some of the options if you’re new to Mobile Analytics and tracking these things in your apps. I think a good conversation, some of these options and what you do with it is a good starter topic. And its gonna run long, so I think what we’re probably gonna do is get to a point and then cut it and start another conversation on the next topic and it might be a 3-part series, it might be a 6-part series but we think this is gonna be value path content here.

David: Yes, so first of all we thought “Hey, lets do an episode about Mobile Analytics.” And then we thought about it, and research and it became this giant pool of information. So we’re trying to decipher this and its going to take a couple of episodes I guess to really make sense of it all. But, I think Mobile Analytics is so important, because its one of the most underrated and most valuable sources of information that helps you with the decisions that you make in your app business. So, Chris why don’t you tell us a little bit about the different sources of analytics that we can use and how we can implement it in our own apps.

Chris: Okay, yeah, well so for starters everyone is probably using some form of the service and thats an App Annie type of service. There’s a couple of others but I think App Annie is just the kind of default. Basically takes iTunes and Google Play data and makes it pretty and readable. And that gives you just basic information, downloads an in-app purchases/revenue. They’ve started adding ad networks, I think they have, App Annie has, they have 6 ad networks. So you get a lot of a good view of like macro app data. So not whats happening inside your app except for in-app purchases, but just downloads and revenue. The basics for an app, and thats a good place to start. David, everyone you know use App Annie, anyone with an app portfolio.

David: I think almost everyone besides you know people who just learned to program. But yes thats the first place and I think its kind of important to understand that App Annie at least the part of App Annie that were talking about, the front phasing part is really a collection of semi-public information which they’re displaying. So they’re scraping the different app stores and whatever methods they have, but its not fed by what your app is telling it from the inside but its really just scraping the public information, right?

Chris: Right. So you’re talking about rankings like where you’re at in the app store an thats a good point, it includes that as well.
David: Yes

Chris: So App Annie is a great place to start, lets assume that everyone’s got that and that’s simple as a signup and connect your iTunes account and Google Play account. And really its because iTunes Connect trying to move around, navigate that website for anything meaningful, as far as, I mean it separates in-app purchases by countries so its really not an easy thing to navigate. So App Annie had an easy win that they started several years ago and now they’ve kind of become the standard. But were talking more the next step, the next level. And there’s like 3 or 4 levels of Mobile Analytics. But the next level is really things like in-app data. What’s happening in your app and what’s happening your app from a macro and then specific. So another example for, this are industry terms that you can tell, I’m making them up as I go here, but things that are happening in your app but that are also kind of macro are things like daily averages or users. Time in your app, how many sessions does a user, how many sessions has your app had performed and how many users are having those sessions. So how often are users using your app, things like that. And those all are kind of like common default metrics or data points that are provided in various services. Were gonna dig in to a couple of services that we’ve used. There’s a link by Apptamin that goes into a handful of different Mobile Analytics tools that he kinda analyzes and has a nice screenshots. So that’s why a good place to start, I’ll have that in the shownotes, its kinda of a longer URL. He’s got a couple nice posts and this is one of them that if your brand new to analytics or I found this post because I was trying to move from Flurry to another service. I ended up right back at Flurry, but so this free and paid, I would say if you’re brand new to Mobile Analytics, free is great, there’s still a lot you can do with free. Some of this just more dependent on a developer to create certain things, certain pieces of code. But just for what I just talked about, daily averages there’s an app, you know they even include like personas. Flurry includes personas even some estimates on ages and genders. So there’s Google, there’s Flurry and there’s Apsalar. I’ve used all 3 of them. Did you got some tips for implementing some of this services just for someone brand new.

David: Yes, just generally a podcast, I mean it doesn’t really limit itself toward explaining like this in detail. Its much easier to look up the help guide, whatever service your using, bu just generally they always provide an STK which you can implement in your app. It really doesn’t take more than 3 lines of code and then you can start tracking and start receiving data. And I think that’s a very important first step because if you’re not doing that and that’s the only thing you take away from this episode that just get started and we have already like had enormous impact on what you do with your apps and with your business  so that would make me really happy. When we talked about Google specifically, and that’s Google analytics, so the analytics product which you might be familiar with in terms of tracking websites, they have rewritten it completely so that it now mobilize first class citizens as well. So they have split it to Google analytics for tracking websites and Google analytics for tracking mobile. And if you used their STK, you can simply implement it in your app, but make sure that when you implement it, you use a different so-called protegy for every different app that you’re tracking. So think of a property as an app, but track different platforms like iOS and Android in different versions if your app within the same property. So that gives you the most leveraged over the data that your receiving and its really easy to navigate through this pieces of data with their web interface or their android app.
Chris: Yeah, and when you go to setup, any of their services, they’ll be some type of prompts or wizards with both Google and Flurry and then you just gonna pass the code to your developer or you can do it. But, I mean it is 3 lines of code, cut and paste type of thing, so to get start collecting this kind of data is gonna cost you a dollar and take 3 minutes. So its such an easy win.
David: So if it takes a developer more than 10 minutes to do this, you should probably get a new developer.

Chris: Common as crap. Okay so I used Flurry. Flurry is a, you know its not super easy to navigate their charts or all over the place but they do index a ton of data and I moved from Flurry to Apsalar for 3 months coz I want it you know, I left Flurry in there but I also used Apsalar. And it ended up being that even though Flurry is harder to navigate, it just collects a lot more stuff without me having to create anything custom. And, so its a great thing to have in your app right from the get go, any of this tools. But if becoming Flurry and Google and you know some of this other ones if you wanna have a custom implementation. So, I used Flurry, I’m gonna look at Google again as I’m moving to Android but, so those are great starter solutions. I mention Apsalar, and then there are some paid versions as well. Mixpanel is a kind of a popular option for websites as well, and then Localytics is I believe only mobile. And I listed them here because even you own a client, they have tons of great information on their blog. They have a video series, they have a bunch of whitepapers. I’ve read almost all those stuff. So its worth checking them out and reading some of the stuff they have and they give you great ideas on what to track and why and all that kind of content so I don’t know if that is enough endorsement to sign up with them or not. Anything to add to that David?
David: I want to maybe take away from that. Just if you’re getting confused by all of this services and all of the different names, then its, you’re probably not that far into working with analytics and thats great because that means you have lots of potential and to optimize your apps and make them better with analytics. And then I trusted just using Google Analytics personally because I’m coming from a web background and I’ve worked with it before. And if you just know the interface from just working on web properties, you’re going to have a really easy time using it with mobile as well. And its free and with Google, you know the things usually work and they’re usually pretty easy to do. And so if you just trying to navigate through this jungle of services. That’s what I would recommend.

Chris: Okay so I wanna have 11 more services to go, now I’m staying. So theres actually a really good post on Quora. So, you can type in you know, mobile analytics, and its really funny because someone will ask a question and then all the different, like this development people from the different analytics company will chime in and say “Hey, were the best, no were the best.” So if you’re interested in hearing about 11 others, you  can go google that on quora and searched for that in quora and hear about several other companies and what they offer and why they think they’re unique. So just a way to get more exposure to your audience. Okay so we got now with out of those 3 lines of code, we spent 10 minutes on it, we’ve got some of the basic stuff like averages, users time on an app, sessions, you know these kinds of things. But, that doesn’t tell us a lot about our apps specifically and remember the whole goal of this is to help us make decisions, to improve our app. You know whats not working, whats working well, how can I improve retention, how can I improve acquisition, how can I improve engagement etc. And were gonna get in to all that probably in another series but, so the way that Flurry refers to this stuff is by calling them custom events. Dude, is that how they refer to in Google as well?

David: Yeah, Google has events well.

Chris: Okay, so cost events or custom events, and it we wanna, the way we start with custom events and the point of talking about this is, so it doesn’t end at just adding 3 lines of code and caught in data averages coz that’s not gonna help you decide what to change in your app. You wanna know things like how many users opened the app. So you know downloads, how many opened. So I found that 95% of the people that download, opened my app but right away you lose 5%. So if you have a thousand downloads a day on your app, your losing 50 people right off the bat. So its just this kind of interesting things that help, you know theres not much you can do to change that. Maybe you can create a push that says “Hey, you haven’t opened the app yet, something like that, but I’ve never done that, its not worth of your 5%. But how many get passed the first thing, this is huge. So if you have a tutorial or signing, you wanna know how many kinda have taken that first step to engage with your app. And you can track and gauge it in several ways, like there’s several levels of engagement, right? Just like there’s a raving fan and someone that can tell all their friends and there’s someone that “Ah, its okay, I’ll leave it on my phone.” But you can track all this and so people are having a hard time, you know if they’re not getting through the tutorial, then maybe your tutorial isn’t very engaging or whatever you think you can change to effect this stuff, you want to find things to move the dial. Because, David I think you’ve mentioned that either the notes are on the call. That a lot of this things are multipliers, they’re not just linear. Downloads is a linear, you know you can go from a thousand to fifteen hundred and you added 50% users that’s great. But pretention is hey if they stayed longer, 3 times as long, thats 3 times as long. Thats having 3 times many downloads. It makes huge impact and the industry or at least the publishing side, indie publishing side, a lot of the guys have been focused on how many apps can I get out and how quickly, right? Its become a production line for, okay I made 8 runners, and I made 15 slot machines and I made 30 quiz apps and all that stuff and there hasn’t been a whole lot of attention to creating a better user experience and keeping people engaged in your app longer. And that can have a huge impact much more than creating the next app that takes 40 downloads a day.  You know, if you have an app that has a thousand downloads and you figured out retention, so this people stay there 4, 5, 6 times as long, you just gave yourself something similar to 6,000 downloads.

David: And you gave the idea that someone who stays longer in the app is also more like they should buy something or to click on an ad or anything that drives revenue. So its not just you multiply the number of impressions that you get there but you actually like even more multiplying the potential for revenue that you get through the apps. Is that this my opinion?

Chris: Yes, more likely the share, the app, etc. And there’s lots of data on that which we just don’t have at our fingertips, but hey this is episode 8, just trust us at this point, right? But, okay so that’s gonna be the goal of the next podcast episode is lets begin to, what are this custom events that we can try? What are some of the main things that were there you know, key performance indicators? What are some of this KPI’s that we should be watching for? And what are some of the things that we can do to move the dial? Again, 6 you know, the retention being 6 times what is what before like David said. Its more than just more ad impressions. Its a more engaged user for everything and you know were talking in terms of how do we make more money or how do we get them to stay in the app longer? But really what were talking about is how do we create a better user experience so users wanna stay in the app and play the app. And you get an app with a good user experience, and people playing and everything, multiplies. Its like this magic formula where you get it right, and everything just takes off.

David: So were finally made in full circle to the beginning of the episode where we talking about user experience again, right?

Chris: Yep

David: I think thats really important to understand and just, I just wanna have one final note here and this is, like I said when we researching on the topic, we just found so much data and so much things to cover and to talk about. This is just the first episode to – in the series, its just suppose to be an introduction. And if this is all so much new information and its really hard to handle, then you  should worry. There are many terms that we have used, that we have not explained in this episode because it would just end up going down the rabbit hole with half hours of one podcast episode. But we’ll explain a lot of them in the next couple of episodes and if there’s one thing you want to take away from this episode is start tracking, and implement this in one of your apps. Its not that hard, and we’ll look into the possibilities that this newly gathered data provides in the next couple of episodes. You don’t have to have a clear plan of what to do with this data right now. Its more important that you start collecting it.

Chris: Yup. And so, next episode we’ll talk about the potential ROI of the K rating as an API and what that means.


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