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Analytics Tops Android SDK List, Firebase Back-End Is Hot

Android mobile app developers use more analytics SDKs than any other type, according to the latest data from SafeDK Mobile Ltd., which also noted big growth in usage of Google's Firebase back-end offering.

The firm, which provides a mobile SDK management platform and tracks the usage of SDKs in free Android and iOS apps, this week announced an update of its data that was collected and released in a January report. The new report update (free PDF upon providing registration info) shows little change in many categories over about five months -- app analytics is still the top category -- but Firebase usage has grown substantially over that period.

In fact, the Firebase back-end SDK was the only one among the top 5 to experience growth from January to May. Coming in at No. 3 in the popularity chart, Firebase grew from being listed in 21.2 percent of tracked apps previously to 27.4 percent.

The Google Play SDK is naturally always No. 1 in such reports -- with almost universal inclusion -- and the Facebook SDK is also nearly a given, used in about 46 percent of Android apps. But those two offerings, along with No. 4 player Unity Ads SDK (about 16 percent) and Yahoo's Flurry analytics SDK (about 15 percent), experienced slight decreases in usage.

Top SDK Players
[Click on image for larger view.] Top SDK Players (source: SafeDK Mobile Ltd.)

"Firebase, steady in third place, continues to grow," the report said. "While changes in penetration are mild to none for others, the Firebase SDKs are still growing. It was still far from the top 5 only six months ago, making its big leap at the start of 2017. It has managed to knock Crashlytics out of the top five, while trying to take some of its market share with its Crash Reporting SDK. However, as we'll soon see for the Crash Reporting category, Crashlytics managed to stay on top, which might indicate why early this year Google ended up acquiring Crashlytics from Twitter."

Top SDK Players
[Click on image for larger view.] Top SDK Categories (source: SafeDK Mobile Ltd.)

Firebase also showed strong growth in a previous report published by SafeDK last fall. "Google's latest addition to its Play Services SDK, Firebase, is generating competition and entering otherwise uncharted waters, making itself one of the hottest trends of the past few months," SafeDK said at the time. "Nearly 9 percent of Android apps are already actively using at least one package of Firebase, the new mega-SDK introduced by Google last May."

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Following a year-long increase, the average number of SDKs per app is now at 17.8 SDKs.
  • PayPal is the top payment SDK, at 29.8 percent.
  • Mobile payment continues to grow, and PayPal isn't leading in all geographic regions.
  • OpenIAB is slowly becoming one of the most preferred Payment SDKs for app publishers.
  • Three out of four Android apps use advertising.
  • AdMob is the top advertising SDK, at 95.1 percent inclusion.
  • Google Play is the top inbound analytics SDK, at 72.9 percent.
  • For the first time, Branch has made it to first place as the preferred mobile user engagement SDK, pushing Urban Airship to second place.
  • Crashlytics maintains its dominance of the crash reporting category at 53.3 percent.

"We've seen acquisitions and mergers jumpstart SDK categories, introduction of new tools turning the tables, sometimes forcing a known player to reinvent itself, and we've seen app needs and focuses shifting on the field," SafeDK said in concluding its report. "SDKs continue to battle over publishers' hearts and pockets, and as users expect more from their apps, so do these apps expect more from their little helpers, their SDKs."

The company's data covers 150,000 free Android apps, including apps featured in Google Play's top charts against a database of more than 900 mobile SDKs.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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