The mobile app industry is one of the most growing industries around and owes much of its progress to Software Development Kits (SDKs). SDKs, 3rd party libraries, designed to help expedite the development process, as well as grant mobile apps with a bundle of capabilities and features of their choosing. At the tip of a publisher’s fingertip are a world of possibilities, all crafted to enrich apps and entice users to keep coming back. Analytics, Advertising, Engagement, Social and so on, help mobile apps provide the best product for their users.

It’s been nearly two years since we first set sail onto this special voyage into the heart of the mobile world, taking a close look at the smaller instruments that make it tick so well. This report is the product of our latest analysis, shedding light on SDK usage and trends of December 2017 in the Android ecosystem.

This report is based on a thorough analysis of hundreds of thousands of top apps, featured in Google Play’s top charts worldwide. It is matched against a database of over 1,000 SDKs.

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?

This past year was very interesting in terms of how many SDKs mobile app integrate. After seeing the average number of SDKs integrated in mobile apps increasing throughout 2016, this year it’s been mostly ‘same old, same old’ quarter after quarter. The change, if any, was minor and for a short moment there it looked like ‘SDK Fatigue’ was real and mobile apps have reached saturation when it comes to their SDKs. But something has changed this quarter. After barely budging from the 17.8 neighborhood for a long time, the average number has moved upstate and is now standing on 18.5 SDKs on average in a mobile app.

The following shows the average number of SDKs integrated by apps in each quarter of the past year and a half:

SafeDK 2017 Q4 Report: Avg # of SDKs

How Many Apps Use SDKs that Access Private User Data?

With the clock ticking on GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), many mobile apps find themselves with questions and concerns about private user data being collected by 3rd party SDKs with EU’s GDPR coming into effect in May 2018. But even before that, Google Play has announced it will start enforcing harsher restrictions on private user data collection – apps that access private data that is not necessary to their core functionality might face harsh ramifications. We therefore found it pivotal to analyze just SDKs usage, but also SDKs access to private data.

The following shows the percentage of apps that have at least one SDK accessing one of the following user information:

SafeDK 2017 Q4 Report: Mobile apps ready for GDPR?

56% of apps have at least one SDK trying to access user location. As mentioned in last quarter’s report, we often see SDKs that check both the app-declared and user-granted permissions, and whenever possible read the user location, even if it’s not needed for the SDK’s functionality.

One of the examples Google gives of unnecessary private user data being accessed (and soon to be enforced) is access to the list of installed apps on a user’s device. This information is not guarded by any permission that user can grant or revoke, but is rather up for grabs. The intention was to check for installed apps so they can communicate with one another whenever possible. However, it appears reality has proven this information is being accessed for other purposes and far too often for Google’s liking, and they’ve decided to ensure apps and SDKs are using this information for their intended purpose. With over 40% of apps having at least one SDK accessing User Apps, it’s time for publishers to check with their partners if they’ve put them at risk.

In addition, 30% of apps have at least one SDK accessing user Contacts and 10% of apps have at least one SDK accessing the device’s Microphone.

 Are all apps integrating more SDKs this quarter?

Is the question that follows the increase in the average of number SDKs. After all, there are so many types of apps and each have their own needs and capabilities.

The following shows the average number of SDKs by Play Store categories:

SafeDK 2017 Q4 Report: SDK usage by Play Store cagegory


The momentum is definitely of the upwards variety. Sports apps are in first place as integrating the most SDKs, having added over 2 SDKs on average to their product this quarter. Dating apps are also still abundant with SDKs, and the holiday season strikes once more with Shopping apps making a large leap and adding 2 SDKs on average as well.

As always, the most interesting and possibly telling category is the Finance category. This category is famous for being conservative and skeptical of any new outside tool, so seeing Finance apps adding a little over 1 SDK on average in a single quarter suggests the overall rise may not be just a temporary anomaly.

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

SafeDK's X-Ray