Even though the buzz has died down from Google IO 2012, it’s still a good time to be excited about it. A number of things that were announced are now becoming available to more developers.
Sadly no, Google Glass is not going to be released for the general public yet. However, things like Google Analytics for Mobile Apps is becoming more available. While Google initially indicated that IO attendees would get preference, I believe it’s pretty much open to all developers who want to participate in the Analytics v2 Beta. Be sure to get version 2 though! Version 1.x is the publicly available download, and the new features are what you really want.
Bringing Google Analytics to Mobile Apps
This one has been eagerly anticipated by app developers for a while. While it was possible to integrate Analytics previously, Google finally took the initiative to make the Google Analytics platform available to app developers (both Android and iOS) without having to pretend to be a website. As they put it, apps are now “first class citizens”.
I immediately signed up for the early beta and integrated it into Android app updates I was working on. The integration was not too difficult, although I had to puzzle out a few things to understand if I wanted to try to implement optional features. Out of the box, however, it provides some very helpful information with very little integration effort.
I have found the new Analytics to be very cool. I can see things such as:
- Real-time stats showing where in the world an app is being used
- Number of new and total app users every day
- Average “session” length – how long users are using the app
- Crash counts (not details – see below)
- “Flow” – order of activities that a user visits
- In-App Purchases and other income-related metrics
What’s great is that this information isn’t just tied to Google Play – you can gather your statistics from the Amazon Appstore, Samsung Apps, or any other app market you deploy your app to. I have been aggregating my data, but you could even track each deployment separately if you wanted that amount of detail!
And you can bet the statistics can be analyzed by language, region, device and the other usual Analytics dimensions. For example, users in California use my app for twice as long as in Illinois.
Wait, what? Maybe a more useful statistic. Italian language users spend less than 25% of the average time in this app. Perhaps they don’t like that it isn’t translated to their language, and quickly leave.
A little more digging and you can likely come up with much more useful information!
Tracking on the go
Another great announcement from Google IO was the Google Analytics app for Android. This is particularly handy if you want to track your website or app from your phone or tablet, but don’t lug a laptop around with you.
While some have complained about the UI, I like it better than logging into the Analytics web site from my tablet.
What Google Analytics For Mobile Is Not
Awesome as this news is, be careful – this is NOT a replacement for ACRA - the automated crash reporting tool. The crash reports are minimal at best – no stack trace is available. I know more than with the Developer Console (which only knows when users send in a report), but I can’t debug unreported crashes.
Also note that this is not a turnkey solution. There are a few optional features that require understanding the documentation, so if you are relying on advanced features you might end up with one or two releases while you sort out the right settings.
For example, the campaign tracking was not what I thought it was. I wanted to track incoming search terms, but instead just have tracking for what site the searcher came from. More investigation is needed.
Don’t let the limitations scare you off though – this is the same value proposition as many Google services. A lot of functionality for free with very little integration effort, and a bit more with some (or maybe a lot) of work.
And as always, there will be competitors offering paid services that do more and possibly do it for less integration effort. There’s always room for competition, even against free!
So, if you haven’t started using Google Analytics for Mobile in your Android or iOS apps yet, you might want to sign up now.