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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!

*** News Update *** SafeDK Named a Cool Vendor 2017 by Gartner

By SafeDK
June 16, 2017 3:41 PM

Vendors selected for the “Cool Vendors” report are recognized as innovative, impactful and intriguing

SafeDK has been named a “Cool Vendor” 2017 in the “Cool Vendors in Endpoint, Mobile, Network and Gateway Security, 2017” [1] report by the world’s leading research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc.

Founded in 2014, SafeDK is the world’s first end-to-end mobile SDKs management solution. SafeDK covers the entire span of the app development cycle, from finding the top​ rated SDKs in the SafeDK Marketplace to ongoing SDK monitoring and real-time control as well as ad quality assurance.

Most mobile apps use 3rd party SDKs to add functionalities for advertising, analytics, social and more. These SDKs often lead to certain malfunctions such as app slowdown, crashes and excessive battery consumption, as well as introduce malicious behavior. To safeguard their apps and their users, app publishers integrate SafeDK’s solution into their development environment. SafeDK automatically identifies their SDKs and from that point onward, publishers gain full visibility and control over these SDKs’ real-time behavior including the abilities to view live issues and statistics, uncover which ads users see, turn SDK privacy permissions on and off, or remotely deactivate an entire problematic SDK.

“We are honored to be named a ”Cool Vendor” 2017 by Gartner”, said Orly Shoavi, SafeDK’s Co-founder and CEO, “Providing a deep-tech solution for our customers, mobile app publishers, to manage their 3rd party SDKs and make their apps better and safer has been our mission from day 1 at SafeDK. We’re excited to get such an important recognition for this”.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

[1] Gartner, Cool Vendors in Endpoint, Mobile, Network and Gateway Security, 2017 by John Girard, Lawrence Orans, Ruggero Contu, Manjunath Bhat, Dionisio Zumerle

5 Tips on Configuration for Mobile SDK Developers

May 23, 2017 3:51 PM

The deployment cycle of a mobile SDK is different than that of a mobile application – no matter how often and quick your release cycles are, you’re still dependent on the release cycles of the hosting app. This fact makes it harder to test and tweak your code based on production experience.

Configurable parameters to the rescue! Making your code configurable by adding parameter control from the server is not limited solely to the development stage of the SDK lifetime, it can be extremely beneficial in production as well. All part of the deal when you don’t control when new versions and code will be rolled out to users. So, while using configurations is a good practice for mobile apps and SDKS alike, for SDKs it can literally become a ‘make it or break it’ issue.

The basic need is for your code to behave differently based on server-side configuration. The configuration can include different behaviors for different customers, A\B testing, general parameters used throughout the code etc.

The implementation details can vary between different platforms, languages and use cases, but there are a few common issues to consider.

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How Top Mobile App Publishers Boost Ad Revenues While Maximizing UX

May 8, 2017 3:35 PM

Let’s get real for a second. App monetization is what it’s all about. Most of us get into the mobile app game not just to make the world a better place, but also to bring home the bacon. We put in hours upon hours trying to figure out where our users get lost, we pour hundred and thousands of dollars on trying to get the right users to notice us, and we consider most UX changes longer than we would a prospective spouse. That’s how important our app monetization is to us.

After all the hard work and long hours, we deserve a little something-something for our time and effort. So how frustratingly nerve-wrecking, not to say annoying, it is to learn that the very thing that should have turned a profit ends up hurting the bottom line? Especially when it’s not even the part of the app you wrote?

According to our January 2017 data analysis, most free Android apps use Advertisement SDKs in their app:

SafeDK | Most Popular Mobile SDK Categories Jan 2017

Ads are definitely the #1 source for app monetization in today’s market. It’s why we see their share consistent quarter after quarter.

And since SDKs are what we’re all about at SafeDK – ad-networks not excluded – we started monitoring what ad-networks are showing users. Allow me to share with you some real-life cautionary tales and answer the age-old question about user experience and app monetization: can I have my ads and eat it too?

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Mobile Apps Competitive Analysis Done Right

May 2, 2017 1:05 PM

Our 2 cents about how to run a successful app-marketing competitive analysis. Includes recommended free or almost free app marketing tools to use.

Reading time: 10 minutes (the actual work is a different story…)

In today’s world, doing competitive analysis is like doing opposition research: it’s just simply a given. It’s a method everybody must follow.

Yet knowing that you must run competitive analysis is one thing. Doing it right is another.

Since we started helping app developers & marketers learning which tools (SDKs) are used by their competitors, just by using our free App X-Ray tool, we received many requests for our advice on how to properly run a mobile app competitive analysis. So, we’ve decided to roll out our sleeves and help.

Mobile app professionals are a part of a very competitive industry. It is therefore no surprise that they always need to be vigilant and adaptive. As many developers have smaller budgets than established companies, they must get extra creative when it comes to their business and marketing efforts. That’s why some app developers I know (and very much respect) are not just checking items off their to-do list. They are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to learn from their competitors’ activities and methods and utilize that information to grow their own business. Moreover, they are constantly looking for faults. Things that their competitors aren’t doing, or aren’t doing well.

I personally think that the “me too” strategy is legit and shouldn’t be instantly rejected, just because of an oversized ego. Running a smart competitive analysis will help you add more hacks and tactics to your list and gain a good understanding of the important tactics or strategies being used. It’ll also uncover which tactics your competitors aren’t using so you can leverage them for your use.

Many app developers focus almost their entire efforts on keywords research (on ASO tactics), and they tend to neglect other vital areas such as high level business data, partnerships, content strategy, PR, and social media strategies etc.  In turn they get to see and understand only a small part of the picture.

To cut a long story short, here is a more comprehensive list of competitive analysis areas, that aims to cover all aspects of mobile app business and marketing, or at least most of them. You are probably familiar with some of the items on the list and I hope to introduce you to some more which might generate news ideas.

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5 Myths of Using Mobile SDKs that Mobile Developers Must Know

April 19, 2017 2:11 PM

You know how some things were created to make our lives easier? The same has happened in the mobile development industry with SDKs. The growing use of SDKs has certainly made developers’ lives easier. They don’t need to spend time writing code and developing back-end stability for functionalities unrelated to the core of their apps.

According to our latest SDK trends report, a single app implements 17.6 SDKs on average, which means that mobile SDKs are popular today more than ever. But do we know all there is to know about the mobile SDK industry? Do we understand the potential and correctly estimate the risks?

While talking with many of our clients, prospects, and industry professionals, I noticed some major misconceptions regarding the use of SDKs.

Unfortunately having these misconceptions is a recipe for disaster – if you don’t know what some of your app’s code does, you could be subject to collateral damage. Therefore, I thought it was necessary to write this post and break some of these myths.

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10 Mobile App Development Trends to Look Out for in 2017

March 23, 2017 1:58 PM

Gladly, our mobile app industry is continuing to grow at a fast pace.

In fact, App Annie’s projection is that by 2020, mobile app store revenue will exceed $100 billion globally. The latest annual Mobility Report from Ericsson reveals that there will be 6.1 billion Smartphone users globally by 2020 and as for 2017, Gartner’s prediction is that by the end of the year “mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion and making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe.”

I remember, way back in 2008 (or maybe even a bit earlier than that…), I had to do some reading in order to understand the concept behind a device that is ‘all apps’. This was less than 10 years ago. It makes me wonder, what will we experience 10 years from now?

Mobile App Forecast by AppAnnie | SafeDK Blog
App Annie’s report projects a growth of $100B by 2020

Mobile App Store Revenue Worldwide by Gartner | SafeDK
Gartner predict 2017 will be see an even bigger growth in Mobile Apps revenue

Obviously, the mobile app development world is growing and changing rapidly, catering to the growth with some exciting trends. I’ve chosen to share a few of them with you today (yes, there are more. Talk to me if you think I should add others in as well).
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[Infographics] The State of Mobile SDKs at the Start of 2017

March 8, 2017 4:07 PM

During the course of 2016, we’ve published two reports uncovering the state of mobile SDKs: one in April and on in October. We explored which SDK categories are most popular, exposed which SDKs are leading their category and even compared global and local trends. And judging by last year, we knew 2017 would be as interesting to explore, if not more.

We’ve just published a new report, looking at January 2017. The data comes from a thorough analysis of over 100,000 Android apps, featured in various Google Play stores around the world and available to download for free.  Together, these apps integrate hundreds of SDKs, from the top industry players to new players hoping to take the mobile world by storm.

And let us tell you right now that looking at the January data, and comparing it to the data from our previous reports (and the months in between), we’ve spotted some truly fascinating trends…

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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