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The Future of Analytics on the iPhone and iPad

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Analytics are here to stay, and Apple has made clarifications to the use of user data from its iPhone and iPad to help improve the safety of your data. Jeff Hughes reminds you that as more smartphones enter the market, the need for greater privacy controls will be needed to ensure the integrity of your data.

Today's smartphones are the wave of the future. As more people use them and more applications become available on them, their importance in business and home life will become even more crucial.

As we've seen with the evolution of all consumer devices, one technology's gain is another's loss. Take television, for example. The past two decades have seen huge disruptions in audience viewership as cable TV has minimized network TV. Over the past decade, all television (cable and network) has had to contend with the Internet and more recently smartphones for people's time and attention.

Consequently, television has seen a steady decline of advertising as those dollars are shifting to smartphones and mobile ads, where people are spending more and more of their time.

The significance of the smartphone cannot be ignored as it continues to gobble up consumer time and money. Analytics for the smartphone has become increasing important for smartphone developers and advertisers to help them measure and identify trends with application usage. Analytics allows developers to create better products as they identify what features are used most.

Back in April of this year, Apple introduced guidelines about what kind of data iPhone and iPad developers could gather. Gathering device data was prohibited, but gathering usage data was ok.

In September of this year, Apple made clarifications in its iPhone Developer Program License Agreement to state the following:

"You and Your Applications may not collect user or device data without prior user consent, and then only to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application, or to serve advertising."

So third-party analytics and advertisers such as Flurry, Admob, and Mobclix are alive and well, providing benefit to developers and advertisers who depend on analytics to make better ad placement decisions.

Analytics Benefit Developers

Developers can discover how many times their app is opened during the day. They can identify whether the app is used frequently—several times a day, or infrequently—such as once per week or month.

A game app, for example, that is used several times a day is a good sign that it's got that winning formula that everyone's looking for to get large numbers of sales.

A game that is downloaded and then never used is a sure indication that it doesn't have the staying power needed to become a hit. It may cause you, as a developer, to make adjustments to improve the app to drive future success.

Tracking average times used for your app can also help you determine if your app is going to have longevity in the market. If you feel that the average time used on your app should be 20 minutes and you're seeing it used only 10, you can do further research to figure out why this is happening.

It could be an indication that your app is not easily understood or someone is getting bored with it too quickly. Both cases are cause for concern and can be addressed. Without analytics you'll never know why someone is abandoning your app.

You can also use the analytics data to improve and test user interfaces for your iPhone/iPad apps. For example, you can measure how many times a certain menu page is opened or how many times a particular button is pressed.

This data will give a picture of how your app's interface is being used. Perhaps you find that your user is going to a particular screen out of sequence to what you have programmed. This could indicate that you'll want to make changes to the screen flow of your app.

Utilizing analytics also allows you to claim, rightfully, that you are in touch with your customers and willing to listen to their product suggestions.

Other than reviews, which are often very limited in the information they provide, this is one of the best ways to gather accurate product use data without employing a costly user panel to review and test the product.

The Future

What does the future hold for analytics vendors in the smartphone industry? As more users' data is stored and sent around from smartphones, the issue of privacy is going to become a bigger and bigger concern.

Developers and advertisers will be increasingly scrutinized about the type of data they gather and how it's being used. The issue at hand is how and where your data gets circulated across different vendors and middlemen. There aren't many rules and no real policies about what can be done with your data, how it can be stored, or how it can be transmitted.

What happens if your data is lost or stolen? Who will be held responsible for a breach of data removed from your phone and transferred to another entity? Collected data is generally used by developers to build audience profiles, which in turn helps target more ad dollars.

The analytics information is used by ad companies that sell ads to assist companies to make the best placement decisions who want to advertise on smartphones. Such information allows advertisers to select very specific audiences for placement of their ads.

Analytics are crucial to the app industry. Developers rely on analytics data to make better products based on where users are getting the most feature benefits.

Advertisers rely on the analytics data to identify which applications are being used the most. This information allows them to adjust ad prices up or down depending on an app's popularity.

Apple, for its part, wants to ensure that its customers' data is protected and that developers and ad vendors play within their guidelines. However, the stakes are becoming higher and higher for your iPhone and iPad data where once again, the integrity of your data is at center stage.

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