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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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[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!

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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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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The Hottest Mobile App Tools (SDKs) of Q4 2016

January 3, 2017 12:41 PM

It wasn’t too long ago that app developers didn’t know what’s what in the mobile SDKs world. Who’s stronger than whom and who’s fighting to keep their head above water. All that has changed. Last May, we released our first ever Android SDKs Trend Report, disclosing who’s hot and who’s not as we listed the top players overall, in different categories, geos and whatnot.

Now we’ve published our second report, based on an analysis of over 100,000 free Android apps, comprised of apps featured in Google Play’s top charts. These apps implement hundreds of SDKs, including all top industry players.

The report looks at October 2016 data, analyzes the SDKs that are active internationally, and are integrated in the apps we’ve looked at.  The data is then compared with the data presented in the April 2016 report to reveal the leading 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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Two Years of Multidexing: Is the 65K Limit Still a Big Deal?

October 20, 2016 8:42 AM

I still remember when I saw my first multidex app. It was almost two years ago and ho so rare. It was an almost religious experience – seeing something you didn’t think could exist with your very own eyes. And yet today I’m surprised when I stumble upon an app and it only has one dex file. Seriously, it’s like finding an oasis in the Sahara. A sight for sore eyes.

Which is why I was so surprised when our saleswoman told me about a meeting she had, where the developers in question specifically asked about it. They were determined to stay single dex no matter what.

You see, silly me, I thought the 65k limit was like one of those things you read about in history books or see in old movies. But it turns out I was living in a bubble. But hey, can you really blame me? Even Android’s own new compiler – Jack – refers to it in both code and documentation as “legacy”.

Which leads me to really think – is the 65K limit in Android still a big deal?

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All You Need to Know About Mobile App Attribution & Analytics SDKs

September 28, 2016 12:44 PM

We’ve recently released a new Android Mobile SDKs Data Report, revealing the top SDK players in each category, as well as the most popular SDKs categories.

One such popular category is of Attribution Analytics SDKs that allow apps to track the source of their app’s installation. Most app publishers that acquire users through paid installs and engagement campaigns have implemented at least one premium Attribution Analytics SDK, which is probably why this category is among the most popular. Our report discloses which Attribution SDKs are the most popular (depicted below), as well as a geographical drill-down (which SDKs are being used by different developers around the world).

Soon we will publish a new report and will show the trends of Attribution SDKs in the past few months.

SafeDK Data Report: Attribution Category

Because this is such a popular and important category, we’ve decided to dive deeper and share some ways to optimize their cost effectiveness.

Take for example the SDK Adjust. It has recently sent an email to its entire customer base, updating them on a significant price change. And the industry responded accordingly. Many developers started looking for alternative attribution tools or ways to operate their paid media activities without implementing paid attribution tools.

Many of our colleagues started thinking and asking questions. As did we.

We have decided to write this post in an effort to help app publishers with their queries and provide some answers to hot questions. Why use attribution SDKs, when are they “just beneficial” and when are they are a must have, how much should you pay, which tools you should choose etc.

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Mobiles on Fire: Am I Using Firebase or Google Play Services?

September 13, 2016 5:15 AM

It’s been almost five months now since Google announced the new generation of Firebase with great fanfare at this year’s Google I/O, and true enough mobile developers have been adapting. In fact, our research at SafeDK uncovers that nearly 8% of top apps are already actively using Firebase, with Firebase Crash Reporting definitely leading the pack in strength (and that’s just a sneak peek spoiler at our next Android SDK Market Report).

But if you’re a mobile developer and have tried integrating Firebase then you may have found yourself feeling more confused than anything else.

You see, Firebase is this big SDK from the house of the rising Google that answers many of a developer’s needs with the premise being “and it’s all completely free”. Analytics, Crash Reporting, Database, Storage space, Push Notifications and more. Some aren’t even mobile SDKs, just great services for developers such as hosting services and so on.

But Google already has a huge amazing all-you-need-ever-wanted-and-can-ask-for SDK. It’s called the Google Play Services. An SDK which over 96% of [Android] developers use, according to our research. And well, that’s exactly where the confusing parts kick in.

For all of you TL;DR folks – Firebase is actually a part of Google Play Services. What does that mean? Well, read on.

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