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The New Google Play User Privacy Restrictions – Apps Have Less Than 30 Days to Get Ready!

January 3, 2018 4:53 PM

Less than 30 days remain before app and game developers must comply with the new Google Play user privacy guidelines.

How is this related to GDPR?

When May 2018 hits, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect.

Companies worldwide will have to institute tighter and more considerate personal data policies – or face hefty fines.

The goal of the GDPR is to return personal data control to European nationals. The regulations also aim to simplify how international businesses collect and utilize user information. These new rules significantly impact mobile app and web developers, who have already started preparing for the GDPR by learning about the necessary changes they will have to implement within their practices and processes.

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11 Must-Follow Groups and Forums for Mobile Game (or app) Developers

November 28, 2017 7:04 PM

Mobile game development is one of the most dynamic fields out there. New technologies, tools and methods keep emerging and keeping updated is a big challenge. Not surprisingly, you don’t have to struggle alone. You don’t need to deal with obstacles by yourself, or wrestle with mobile game development challenges on your own.

Instead, you can consult with the top talent and search for solutions that you might never have thought of just by tapping the goldmine of social groups and forums. By interacting with the best social groups and forums in your specific field, you can benefit from free advice from real industry players whenever you need it. Online communities are one of the fastest routes to overcoming hurdles in your path and a great way to keep updated on the most innovative and agile tools to use.

This is why you should seriously consider following professional online communities as part of your regular work. Don’t fall into that trap of thinking that you have to solve every issue by yourself. Social groups and forums are excellent tools that you should be using.

Although online forums might seem old-fashioned sometimes, but they remain one of the best sources of trouble-shooting and inspiration for those of us who work in the technical industries. I have chosen to share my selection of great social groups as well as the top online forums for mobile game developers today, hoping they will help you with the next challenge you have to face.

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What Does the Upcoming GDPR Mean for Mobile Apps?

November 16, 2017 3:22 PM

Next May, Europe’s data protection rules will undergo a major overhaul. The existing Data Protection Act (DPA), will be replaced by the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a framework that will change how businesses and public sector organizations can handle customers’ personal data – with much tougher punishments for those who fail to abide by the new rules.

The GDPR is meant to unify data protection for all individuals within the EU, as well as address the export of personal data outside of Europe. It aims to return the control over personal data to European nationals and residents and to simplify the regulatory environment in which international business is conducted.

Once implemented, the new regulation will be binding of all companies processing and holding personal data of people residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location. This includes mobile apps. Businesses will have to prove they have made the necessary changes to protect user data, or face hefty fines for noncompliance – 20M Euros of 4% of their annual profit. What’s more, mobile apps found to be noncompliant run the risk of being banned from app stores; a risk no business should be willing to take.

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[Report] How Extensively Do 3rd Party Mobile SDKs Access Private User Information?

October 25, 2017 5:23 PM

Transparency of mobile SDK activity has been on our mission statement since day one. Our flagship product was based on the sole interest of providing app publishers with just such transparency over the 3rd party tools they’ve integrated into their app.

We’ve also been on the forefront of SDK usage data. We’ve been releasing quarterly reports for over a year now, detailing the state of the Android market by following usage trends, pointing out which up and coming SDKs are conquering the mobile world by storm and seeing how competing or complementary tools control their respective market shares.

Now, with growing user awareness and concerns about private data leaking to 3rd parties, as well as big conglomerates being sued for 3rd party violations, we’ve combined both transparency objects. Our latest report has an added section detailing what kinds of private user information mobile SDKs are trying to access. It is especially important for mobile apps with European users who must be prepared for the upcoming GDPR which will start to be enforced in May 2018, holding apps solely responsible for reading private user information without explicit consent, regardless if the action is made by the app itself or a third party tool it has integrated.

Looking at over 190,000 top mobile apps against a database of over 1,000 libraries, this is our most extensive and thorough report to date.

Main Highlights

Please note that we are sharing here a partial selection of the findings that are presented in the full report. To access the full report (download is free) click here.

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How Top Mobile Apps Fight the SDK Fatigue and the Effect on their Business Results

October 10, 2017 3:25 PM

Mobile SDKs have become a commodity. In our latest mobile SDKs market trend report (click to download it free) we’ve revealed that the average app has 18 SDKs. These SDKs support the product, marketing and monetization of the app’s KPIs. Currently, in 2017, it’s practically impossible to make it in the mobile app industry without leaning on multiple SDKs.

But, there’s an issue with this dependency: dealing with and managing multiple SDKs is wearying. Thus, a relatively new term was born – “SDK fatigue.”

In recent weeks, light has been drawn to the question of what SDKs are permissible to know about users. Lawsuits against major players and big conglomerates allege that user privacy is at risk. Supposedly, user information leakage to SDKs is at an all-time high. I can’t think of any dignified app that isn’t afraid of getting involved in such a PR (and business) crisis.

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12 Awards in the Mobile App Industry You Should Check Out

September 13, 2017 11:48 AM

Winning industry awards is fun. Makes sense. Business or pleasure, we all love to win. It may not always be world fame, but a small token of appreciation and some recognition is always nice. However usually in business, that small token of appreciation isn’t something to write home about. Don’t get me wrong – some awards have a nice monetary reward that can give your business an even nicer cash infusion. But that would be the exception, not the rule.

The recognition, on the other hand, that’s why you should enter the competition in the first place. It’s the enormous potential and what you can do with it that’s worth all the effort.

Industry awards are an opportunity to show the best that you’ve got, and that might just be what you, the mobile app entrepreneur, need to get the word out there, or at least to get your engines started.

It’s alright if you’re still hesitant. ‘Is it worth putting so much effort into awards submission?’ is an important question. And all I can tell you is – it depends.

Exposure and brand awareness can be big in an industry with a lot of competition, where mobile apps continue to roll off the production line non-stop. Wining an industry award is a way to differentiate yourself in a world of endless competition, not only in the face of BizDev partners, but also in the face of consumers. I will later share a concrete example.

FYI, not winning isn’t the worst either. Simply submitting and being nominated as one of the top finalists can generate great buzz all on its own, depending on the award. You may gain exposure and recognition through press, reviews, and social media. Of course, winning has plenty of added values and perks too :).

So what can you do with an industry award? A lot!

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3 Tips to Help You Migrate to Android Studio 3.0

September 5, 2017 2:27 PM

After a long period of expectation, Android Studio 3.0 is almost here.

It’s been quite a journey getting here. After 7 alpha versions of Android Studio 2.4, it was announced at Google I/O last May that changes are far too great and will be incorporated into Android Studio 3.0. And then 9 alphas later, the new and improved Android Studio was born. So overall, there are quite a few changes.

And with every truly major version update, upgrading is a little tougher than just the click of a button. In this case, your project would not compile. So before you start googling your way just to end up where you started before the migration, I’ve assembled some tips that helped me getting from a project that compiled on Android Studio 2.3 to a project that compiled on Android Studio 3.0.

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Android O: What Happens in the Background No Longer Stays in the Background

August 10, 2017 2:51 PM

It’s that time of year again when we get ready for the new Android OS version. Each Android version has plenty of small, nice, nice-to-have changes and one big major change. Lollipop brought us ART, Marshmallow brought us Runtime Permissions, and Nougat brought us multi-window. Now, Android’s cracking down on battery wastage and background activity.

Even though you might think OS upgrade is slow in the Android ecosystem (Nougat, for example, is “only” used by 11.5% of the user base), keeping your app updated is very important. First, 11.5% of the population is no small pickings. If you’re still bent on supporting Jelly Bean devices, no reason you shouldn’t support Nougat or O. Second, if you intend your app to run on a Pixel device (no reason why you wouldn’t), you better make sure your app is O-compatible, because some of the changes will affect *all* apps on these devices. And third, numbers are often deceiving. 11.5% of the global market may not apply to you. Your personal user base may very well reach as many as 95% using the latest and greatest.

So it’s settled then. You should make sure you’re compatible.

But what is it really all about? Android O is about being through being nice. For too long, Android has been a wild wild west of manufactures tweaking the OS, apps doing pretty much whatever they wanted and users constantly complaining that their battery runs out too fast. Well, no more.

Background Activity Limitation

The #1 cause for battery drain is excessive background activity. And that’s the biggest thing Android’s changing.

There are no new strict limitations to when the app is in foreground. It can start and run as many services as it wants. But, when in background, its services will be stopped. That’s right, after a small grace period, any service still running in background will be killed by the OS.

Some specific tasks will get longer grace periods (to the extent of several minutes). What makes a task special? That is does something the user eventually sees and/or interacts with. Such tasks include the handling of high-priority messages via Firebase Cloud Messaging, starting a VpnService or handling a legitimate broadcast receiver or notification.

Anything else you want to be doing while in background is now prohibited. If you want to check users’ Facebook status, location, or swing any other kind of background activity, you must use JobScheduler. In a nutshell, JobScheulder was introduced in Lollipop to help the device sleep better, save battery and only perform small works in controlled maintenance windows. It has now been enhanced to take over background and intent services. Best practice then, a must now.

Background Location Limitations

As mentioned, background activity is restricted. Background location activity is restricted as well. Now, this deserves a whole section for itself because background location activity is often the bread and butter of many apps and libraries, such as navigation apps.

In background, location access will be restricted to a few times per hour only. This is a major change, to the app code itself as well as to the 3rd party SDKs that rely on constant location reads. And how much do they read location in background? The following is an illustration taken from the SafeDK Dashboard of an ordinary app:

SDKs accessing Location in background, almost 3 reads per user per minute!

This, by the way, is one of those “affects all” kind of changes. All apps running on an Android O device, regardless of whether they are compatible or not, will have restricted background activity. And specifically restricted background location-access activity.

Some Implicit Broadcast Receivers Were Harmed in the Making of this Android

Part of the wild wild west we were talking about, allowed apps to register Broadcast Receivers via the manifest file and request to be notified of changes on the device. Network changes, Wi-Fi changes, chargers being plugged in and out etc. The result was that even if the app was dead, the OS had to wake it up or even recreate it in order to relay the message. These are known as “implicit broadcast receivers”.

On the contrary, apps could register receivers dynamically in code. This means that they’ll only be notified as long as the app is alive, but the app will not be resurrected once it was dead.

Android O is no longer just encouraging you to use dynamic Broadcast Receivers. It forces you. Many implicit receivers will simply no longer be called. So you better clear those battery hogging classes from your manifest and start explicitly registering them in code. You can find the list of restricted receivers here and adjust your app accordingly.

The main reason for this change, as mentioned before, is improving battery life, by disallowing multiple apps broadcast receivers to be all awoken at the same time.

Prepare for the Change – It’s a Big One!

Here’s the big thing you must understand. The changes in Android O are not background changes (pardon my pun) and are no small potatoes. They will actively disrupt app’s activities.

And you may think your app doesn’t rely on background services and implicit broadcast receivers that much. And you might even be right. But what about the 3rd party libraries and external tools you’re using? They may rely on it more than just a bit. Sometimes their whole product is based on this and they may stop working or giving you what you want. So you have to check your SDKs made the necessary adjustments and that you’re using their updated versions, the Android-O compatible ones, if and when they become available.

In many cases, using incompatible SDKs means you’re harming your app and losing users and money over it. Make sure you’re ready for the change. You and your partners – the SDKs.

Best Practices for Mobile App Ads Monetization

July 17, 2017 2:40 PM

Although the mobile ad industry has matured, mobile app monetization remains a challenge for many app developers. Some publishers have millions of active users, but still fail to reach significant revenues.

If we look at the current state of the mobile app monetization landscape, ads are still the most popular channel for monetization, with 65% of all mobile apps displaying ads. Moreover, our latest Android SDK’s data trends report shows 75% of free apps using an ad-network SDK, making it the second most popular SDK category today.

According to Juniper Research, mobile app ads spend will reach $16.9 billion by 2018!

SafeDK May 2017: Most Popular SDK Categories

Games Paved the Way

According to a report that was released by App Annie in 2016, “Games generated approximately 85% of app market revenue in 2015, representing a total of $34.8 billion across the globe. We expect the games category to grow to $41.5 billion in 2016 and $74.6 billion in 2020 thanks to strong monetization in mature markets, especially China’s tier-one and tier-two cities, as well as Japan and South Korea.”

HIS also show that games are the biggest mobile ad revenue generators:

Source: HIT

Of course, there are multiple monetization models, such as paid apps, freemium apps (one-time subscription fee), subscription, in app purchases (another model games are very fond of, although a report by swrve suggest that only 1.9% of mobile gamers made in-app purchases in Feb 2016), sponsorship (quite new), commerce and more.

Looking at industry veterans, many of which are games, we decided to share some advanced mobile-app ad monetization best practices.

Let’s get started…
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[REPORT] The Trendiest Mobile App Tools (SDKs) of Spring 2017

June 26, 2017 2:56 PM

For over a year now, we’ve been doing a constant survey of Google Play, analyzing the top apps available for free worldwide. Our motivation is to uncover the hottest mobile SDKs used by app publishers.

Mobile apps would not be the same without 3rd party tools and libraries. The thriving set of capabilities offered is astonishing. Most publishers will rush to market and won’t have the time, resources or will to develop these complete products on their own, in addition to their app. And why should they, when other players in the mobile world have gone pro in developing just these kind of features…?

Our analysis has seen the trends of app publishers using SDKs, from high-level numbers to category-specific drilldown and even by geographical origin. We’ve tackled mobile apps from various angles and are happy to share the latest trends in our newest report, looking at data from May 2017. With an arsenal of over 900 SDKs and more than 150,000 apps at our hands, we have the full Android SDK picture.

Main Highlights

Please note that we are sharing here a partial selection of the findings that are presented in the full report. To access the full report (download is free) click here.

How Many SDKs are Integrated in a Mobile App?

The second quarter of 2017 is a special one. Ever since we began doing our analysis, we’ve seen a steady rise in the average number of SDKs used in apps. However, after seeing it slow down a bit the previous quarter, we have now seen it stay the same. And we must wonder what, if anything, does this mean – is this a hiccup on the trajectory going upwards or will 17.8 – the current number – become the new normal?

SafeDK May 2017: Avg. # of SDKs by Quarter

But there’s a much bigger story at play here. Our report shows the average number by different criteria, such as the store categories or install range. Here’s a sneak preview of the game subcategories for example:

SafeDK May 2017: Avg. # of SDKs in Gaming apps

The range is wide. Some game categories, for example, are higher this quarter than last and well above the global average. Arcade’s average number, for instance, was the same as the global one last quarter, but these apps have dropped an SDK by average this quarter.

But how do Games fare in general compared to other categories? Are they using more or less SDKs this quarter? Are they using more or less than News apps, Dating apps or Fitness apps? Download the report for free to get the full scope!

What are the Most Popular SDK Categories?

High-level trends seem to be fairly constant this quarter. Not just the average number of SDKs, but which SDK categories, i.e. capabilities and features, are most desired.

SafeDK May 2017: Top Payment SDKs

But as previously seen, even if high-level numbers are constant, lower-level drilldown is where the trends hide. Publishers’ desires for SDK capabilities remain the same, but their desire for the SDK themselves vary.

The Payment category is just one of such examples. Android Pay is used much less, OpenIAB is used much more and if you take a look at the geographical dive in the full report, you’ll see where a Bitcoin payment SDK is getting stronger…

Who are the Top SDK Players?

Globally, these are the strongest SDK players in the Android market this quarter:

SafeDK May 2017: Top SDK Players

Firebase is still getting stronger. How much stronger exactly? And what is going on which its predecessor Google Analytics in the meantime? Who’s conquering the Advertising world and who’s dominating the Engagement and Marketing Automation category (hint: an old-faithful climbed to first place!)? Download the full report to find out!

How Does the SDKs Map Look in Different Countries?

SafeDK May 2017: Avg. # of SDKs per Publisher Origin

As mentioned, the report also provides a drill down to some origins and categories, looking for local trends. With a year’s experience at hand, we can tell you – local trends often foreshadow global changes. It’s definitely worth taking a look!

It’s Going to be a Hot Summer!

With new players emerging in some categories and old ones getting stronger and stronger, we’re left to wonder what the future holds. Will apps be using more SDKs? If not, how will categories, origins or install bases react? Which SDKs will continue to get stronger and which ones will lose market share to other? Will there be a new player or capability that will turn the mobile table?

We have shared here just the tip of the SDK iceberg. So don’t wait, download it for free now!