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Google sharpening Analytics' tracking of mobile applications

A new set of reports due later this summer will provide broader, more specific usage metrics to makers of mobile applications

Google is readying a new set of Analytics usage reports designed specifically for mobile applications, the company announced at its I/O developer conference on Friday.

So far, Google Analytics has approached mobile-application tracking from a perspective that's more tailored to conventional websites, said JiaJing Wang, a Google product manager.

With the new reports, Google Analytics will provide results for iOS and Android applications that include deeper, broader and more specific metrics, he said.

"Application developers and marketers need to have a profound understanding of their mobile applications' usage," Wang said.

One set of reports will focus on measuring new and active users of an application, the different versions in use and the devices it's being installed on, as well as how people are finding it at the Google Play store.

Another set of reports will zero in on engagement data, such as the frequency with which people use the application, the length of sessions and the in-application usage patterns, as well as trends in crashes and bugs.

"You have to know what users are doing before you can make meaningful improvements to your mobile applications," he said.

A third type of report will focus on tracking the attainment of specific outcomes, such as ad clicks, in-app purchases or pre-determined session duration goals.

Since Google is providing the capabilities free, it's likely that the price of more sophisticated mobile analytics products from competitors will drop, which will benefit developers, said Michael Facemire, a Forrester Research analyst.

In addition, the native SDK (software development kit) for both iOS and Android makes it technically easy for developers to link their applications with the Google Analytics engine. "This low barrier of entry for developers from a cost perspective and a technology-effort perspective will make this an appealing offering," he said.

Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst, said Google is seeking a stronger position as an information provider for mobile developers.

"This is a strong play which can win Google a lot of mindshare," he said via email. "It could ultimately pay dividends in Android developer adoption and loyalty even though those tools are also provided for iOS."

Google is responding appropriately to the rising importance of mobile applications, Hilwa said. "The bar is higher now for the kind of intelligence developers should expect from their apps. Real-time information about what parts of the apps are being used [is] increasingly critical for application design and we can thank the mobile app economy for that," he said.

As it continues to extend its mobile application analytics capabilities, Google should focus on deepening the integration between Google Analytics and Google Play, to give increasingly more detailed and granular data to developers who use the company's store to sell their apps, Facemire said.

"The level of integration into Google Play will be key, because that's an integration point that's unique for Google Analytics," he said.

The new reports are expected to be available to all Analytics users by the end of the summer as part of version 2.0 of the Analytics mobile SDK (software development kit).

Those interested in trying out the new reports can send Google a request to be beta testers.

Google will also release a new Analytics application for Android devices so that Analytics users can check their accounts and reports from their Android smartphones.

"Mobile development is an around-the-clock job. Having this analytics information with you at all times is key," Facemire said.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.


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