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Tools to make killer apps: Quick guide for developers – Deepak Abbot


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deepak paytmIf you are a superhero app developer who can solve all problems on its own, then this article is not for you. This is meant for developers who are looking to make their mobile apps go from good to fantastic using the right third party tools & SDKs. App developers should focus on their core offerings and let specialist platforms take care of the rest.

This article gives you a snapshot of some of the popular tools/SDKs available in the market to help you manage your customer’s lifecycle. My work at Paytm involves evaluating various tools & platforms for our mobile business so I have compiled this list based on my interactions with account managers of various below mentioned products or extensive online research.

consumer lifecycle journey

I have divided the tools categorized under various CLM stages for ease of understanding. All the tools mentioned below would require their SDK to be integrated in your app (unless otherwise stated) so select wisely and choose the ones fulfilling your most important needs.

Note: This article does not provide extensive review of each tool. Please do your research before selecting the tools you want to use. It’s a guide to help you identify popular tools in the market

1. Acquire/Awareness

acquire awareness
Advertisement

This is where it all starts. Once the app is out in the market, you need to make it popular, advertise and get installs. You employ various means to get traffic. This section talks about all the tools that can help you in your journey

1(a): Attribution Tools – Tools/SDK that allows you to attribute each install to a particular source.  Its an extremely important tool to be carried in your app to ascertain the effectiveness of each channel. Here are some of the popular attribution tools/SDK (in alphabetical order)

AppsFlyer (http://www.appsflyer.com) – Track impressions, clicks, installation and first launch from various sources. They have a simple SDK to integrate. All popular ad-networks are pre-integrated.

Pricing: Organic installs are not charged. Paid installs tracked using their link will cost you between $0.01 and $0.05. They have a special offer running where they don’t charge for first 5000 non-organic installs so you save $250 upfront

If you are looking at high non-organic installs, this will prove expensive.

Hasoffers MAT (http://mobileapptracking.com) – They are one of the most popular attribution analytics platform. They have got very easy to understand dashboard and it’s pretty easy to setup too. Their dashboard has some bugs, that sometime shows wrong data under some filters. It’s a known bug acknowledged by their support team. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.  Most ad-networks are pre-integrated including some popular Indian networks. Their support team is top class, you can expect revert in few hours.

Pricing: For 2mn installs they will charge $0.001 per event.

Be careful, the cost is for every event and not install so all clicks using their URL is charged to you. This can prove to be really expensive if your conversion from click to install is very poor.

Kochava (http://www.kochava.com) – They provide attribution for Windows, Kindle & Blackberry in addition to Android & iOS. They even have a non-SDK solution using server to server calls incase you are wary of adding external SDKs.

Pricing: They claim that they can match the pricing offered by the competition so you just write to them and negotiate J

Segment.IO (https://segment.io) – In addition to tracking installs, it can send data to any other analytics tool you use like GA, Mixpanel, Omniture or Salesforce.

Pricing: $349 for 20mn events/month – Most economical of all. Less than 100k events are free so it’s pretty good for beginners.

Tapstream (https://tapstream.com) – They are a new entrants in attribution analytics. Track Install to LTV using their SDK.

Pricing: Free. $495/month if you want to integrate with your other analytics platform

1(b): Link Exchange – If you are an Indie developer with no marketing budgets, then you need to look at some of the advt/link exchange networks to grow your initial base. Some of the popular in-app traffic exchange networks are:

AppFlood Traffic Exchange (http://appflood.com/a/mobile-traffic-exchange) Signup at the above URL and download a small API to integrate free advts inside your app. Be sure to remove this once you reach a desired scale as traffic exchange is not advisable beyond a point.

Exchanger (https://exchanger.metaps.com) – Customize the ad units you want to display in your app. Similarly you can customize your App icon which you want to show in other apps. Their SDK promises to be light and you need few lines of codes in your app to be ready

TapForTap (https://tapfortap.com/) – This network offers free ad banner exchange in addition to paid banners. You can easily switch between free traffic and paid traffic

1(c): App Distribution – These platforms allow you to submit your Android app across hundreds of App stores worldwide with minimal effort

Inmobi App Publish (http://www.inmobi.com/products/app-publish) – One of the easiest and free to use tool submit your apps to various stores. You can track the performance and revenue details from Inmobi’s dashboard. This is highly recommended for developers looking for wide global audiences. This does not require any SDK or API inside your apps.

Other App Stores – Besides publishing your Android app on Google Play store, you must individually upload your app on some of the popular stores like Amazon, Getjar, Opera, Appslib, Yandex, AppsZoom, Mobango, Samsung Apps, SlideMe among others

1(d): ASO (App Store Optimization) Tools – Taking the SEO concept to apps, ASO is about getting your app rank improved based on keyword analysis done by these tools. These tools will also track your rank daily. Please understand that most of the information is available through various sources – they just make it more meaningful and organized

Appnique (https://appnique.com) – It offers all usual ASO techniques including Keyword analysis, competition mapping & rank monitoring. In addition to providing insights they use these insight to identify look-a-likes and help you do targeted mobile app install campaigns on Facebook. They also provide pre-launch analysis in their pro version.

Pricing: Basic version is free which tracks one app. Most practical version is $149/month

FreshRankings (http://www.freshrankings.com/app-store-optimization) – Their core competency lies in SEO optimization and they offer App optimization as an additional offering. Their tool help you in planning before you launch the app. They suggest content, description, title for your yet to release app. Pricing is available on request only.

MobileDevHQ (https://www.mobiledevhq.com) – Tool which does competitive analysis for you, makes keyword recommendations and track the effect of these changes to your app rank. Work for both Play Store & iTunes Store. No SDK is needed. Just signup and link your & competitor’s apps

Pricing: They have a free version that does not provide keyword suggestions & India store compatibility. Most practical version will cost you $350/month.

SensorTower (https://sensortower.com) – In addition to all the regular ASO tasks achieved by others, SensorTower enterprise version provides market insights too. All International stores are supported.

Pricing: Starts from $79/month for tracking up to 80 keywords going up to $399/month for 400 keywords. Both these packs do not provide international store data.

2. Engage/Convert

engage convert

Now that you have acquired users, it’s important to keep your users engaged and connected. It’s critical to sign them up quickly to complete the acquisition. There are some tools available to integrate signup & social engagement in your apps. These tools also help you do audience segmentation & customer profiling and reward them for their engagement.

2(a) Social Plugins – Tools, which can quickly make your app go interactive and viral

FB SDK for Android or iOS (https://developers.facebook.com/docs/android) – If you want people to signup inside your app then you must not omit FB SDK. It will allow you to add FB login, import social graph from FB, push notifications back to FB wall and much more interactivity than you can build yourself. It’s free to integrate and offers tremendous value to any app developer. You can build entire app or mobile business based on this SDK à la Tinder or WeMatch

Google+ Platform (https://developers.google.com/+/mobile/android) – While Google does not admit it openly but its your hack to get some advantage in their app ecosystem. So I would suggest that you should go for it. Just like FB SDK, it allows you to add Google signin, pull social profile and sharing. It also helps you to push over the air install for your app from your website incase you have one.

Gigya (http://www.gigya.com/solutions/mobile) – Integrate multiple social logins with just one line of code. You can integrate FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+ among others

Pricing: Full product suite can cost upto $40k/year. Basic offerings can be availed for $1500/month

Janrain (http://janrain.com/product) – Add Single Sign on, social sharing and Registration module in your app. It also provided indepth customer profiling and ability to export that to your other marketing tools.

Pricing: Free below 2500 registered users. Tiered pricing starting from $1000/month above that.

LoginRadius (http://www.loginradius.com/developer#mobilesdks) – Similar to Janrain, it offers Social login, SSO and engagement analytics. They support over 100 logins and also allow you to export data to your analytics tools.

Pricing: Starting from as low as $8/month for less than 20k users. $400/month for more than 100k users.

Twitter Login (https://dev.twitter.com/docs/ios) – If you are looking to engage wider & open community then Twitter login is important for your app. It also makes sharing to twitter in your app a much more native experience.

2(b) In-App Gratifications or Cross Promotion – Its not easy to make sticky apps and some of these tools makes it easy. They help your users to gain more out of your app resulting in high repeat percentage.

Chartboost (for Games) (https://www.chartboost.com/platform#platform) – If you are developing a game and want to segment and show custom offers to your users based on their achievements then you need Chartboost SDK in your game. It helps you cross promote your app, upsell to your users or even customize the message for specific users on the fly. Same SDK also allows you to sell your inventory incase you don’t use it for cross promotion.

Getjar Rewards (https://developer.getjar.com/android/offerwall-for-android) – If you are looking to reward your users or introduce some in-game currency then Getjar gives the best user gratification platform. It not only keep your users engaged but also helps you earn revenue from the sponsored rewards. Its only available for Android and their SDK requires a simple integration.

Tapjoy (http://developers.tapjoy.com) – One of the most popular incentivized install platform banned by Apple once came back with in-app reward program. You can get your non-paying users to start contributing by availing offers from Tapjoy inside your app. Tapjoy pays you for these users who were earlier not yielding any money to you. It’s a win win for users and developers.

Upsight (http://www.upsight.com/marketing) – It allows you to do in-app targeting to your own app users. You can offer rewards, make announcements or collect data from your own users without updating your app.

Pricing: Free version is recommended. Paid options range from $500/month to $10k depending on MAUs

3. Monetize

monetize

Objective of every app is to make money, right? This is how you do it if you are relying on Advertisement as your revenue model:

Adcolony (http://adcolony.com) – Integrate high quality Video Advts in your app. You can use any 3rd party reporting with them. Go for them if you have traffic from North America.

Airpush (http://www.airpush.com) – They offer Rich Media advts. They even have push notification advts for Android. Promise weekly payouts to developers, which is great. They claim to offer great fill rates across the globe.

Brightroll (http://www.brightroll.com/videosolutions/publishers) – Brightroll is one of the most popular mobile & desktop video ad-networks and claim to offer high CPMs and decent fill rates across the globe.

Flurry (http://www.flurry.com/AppSpot.html) – They started as app analytics and started offering monetizing opportunities to developers, couple of years back. Backed by strong data gathered from over 100k apps, they claim to be good at personalized targeting and delivering better ROI for Advertisers & Publishers

Google Adwords for mobile (http://www.google.com/ads/innovations/adwordsformobile.html) – This is without doubt one of the most popular monetization platform for app developers. Google gets you better fill rates across the globe. However their yield may not match some premium ad-networks in few regions but its one of the safest ad-network to integrate with for most developers.

iAD (https://developer.apple.com/iad) – This is Apple’s own ad-network offering premium advertising for iOS devices. They haven’t made much dent into the ecosystem but they are making subtle changes to ad policies for app developers, which might force some of them to shift to iAD in future.

Inmobi (http://www.inmobi.com/monetize) – Born in India gone global, Inmobi is one of the most respected ad-network worldwide. They have recently made a big push towards native ads, which in my opinion is great for apps not looking to clutter their screen space with fixed ads.  If you are still building your apps, I suggest you think of creative ways to integrate native advertising.

Komli (http://www.komli.com/in/publishers/komli-mobile) – Another network that has roots in India and is spread across the world. Their core competency still lies on desktop but they seem to have made good progress on the mobile front. Their team is top-notch and always ready to help. Specially recommended for developers looking to monetize in India.

Millennial Media (http://www.millennialmedia.com/monetize) – They are probably among top 5 networks in the world with strong presence in US markets. They have a great self-serve platform plus they offer both performance & brand campaigns on their platform.

Mobclix (http://mobclix.com/developers.html) – They have a great mediation SDK that allows you to serve ads from any of your favorite ad-network without updating your app. Good solution if you want to switch between multiple networks and see which one performs better.

Seventynine (http://www.seventynine.mobi/index.php/products/app-jacket) – India based mobile ad-network boasts of a unique product called App-Jacket which auto wraps your app with preroll video advts without making change in the code. They claim that integration will not take more than 400 milliseconds. Sue them if its not true J

Smaato (http://www.smaato.com/developers) – They are a RTB exchange giving you access to tonnes of inventory worldwide from various DSPs & ad-networks.

Vdopia (https://www.vdopia.com/index.php?page=publishers) – They offer video and rich media advts to publishers. Their core strength lies in India market.

Vserv (http://www.vserv.mobi/mobile-app-monetization-for-developers) – They revolutionized feature phone advertising with their first of its kind AppWrapper. They now offer same seamless integration for Android plus regular SDK integration for all other OS.

4. Analyze

Analyse

Everything you do needs to be monitored and analyzed. Analytics tools are the most critical SDKs to go in any app. My personal advice is – never release an app without at least one analytic tool integrated.

Apsalar (https://apsalar.com) – They provide in-depth analytics for Android & iOS apps. The depth of analytics will depend on the integration method. Their dashboard UI is extremely bad but reports are pretty good. Data is fairly accurate. It also provides attribution but that’s not their core strength.

Pricing: Basic version is Free but does not provide unlimited attribution. Most practical version is $999/month

Flurry (http://www.flurry.com/flurry-analytics.html) – They were the early birds and one of the most popular analytics platform for mobile. Only issue with flurry is delayed data upto 48 hours which is a big downer in today’s age. Also it does not give you unified view of data across multiple apps.

Pricing: Completely Free

Google Analytics for Apps (http://www.google.co.in/analytics/mobile) – If ou have been using GA for your website then it will look familiar to you for mobile too. No cohorts available L Cant track iOS installs. Data is delayed by 36 hours. Surprisingly they do not have a common platform for web & mobile.

Pricing: Free

Localytics (http://www.localytics.com) _ Its fast climbing the popularity charts due to its in-depth data representation and excellent support. It also provides push notification service + A/B testing tool.

Pricing: $1000 for 100k active users. Please note that in addition to active users, they have a limit on data points you can access. For apps with large base of over 1mn, the effective cost can come to $5000/month.

Mixpanel (https://mixpanel.com/segmentation) – It provides combined view of your website & app in a single dashboard. It even has the ability to track individual customers. Mobile attribution is not its strength but on desktop it works great.

Pricing: Starts Free and can go up to $2000/month for 20mn data points

Adobe Analytics (Omniture) (http://www.adobe.com/in/solutions/digital-marketing/mobile-services.html) – While Omniture is considered as gold standard for web analytics, it is yet to reach the level in mobile which some newer players mentioned above has achieved.

Pricing: Starting from $50k/year

5. Serve

serve

Your users expect to be served with the best experience, they want to be heard and would love to see their feedback helping in improving the app. This section would cover some tools to improve the UX of your app, test your app and collect feedback from your users

5(a) Testing & UX Enhancement – Users are merciless so its important that you continue to test and improve your app for providing the best experience to them

Appiterate (http://appiterate.com) – It provides easy A/B testing mechanism with inbuilt WYSIWYG editor and custom messaging based on conditions defined by developers. It provides easy to understand analysis of test results.

Pricing: Free to start but goes to $199/month if you have around 25k MAUs

Apptimize (http://apptimize.com) – Another tool to do real time A/B testing. You can even decide the numbers of users you want to see new features/changes.  It has verification framework to check your code before deployment.

Pricing: Free up to 25k MAU. $300/month for 300k MAUs

Arise.io (http://arise.io) – Usual A/B testing features. Nothing new but it works.

Pricing: Free for 5000 users. $299/month for testing on 250k users

Heatma.ps (https://heatmaps.io) – Its pretty useful if you want to see where you users are touching inside the app. It proves useful when you want to know where to place your most important components in the app. It’s not going to give you anything drastically different than usual pattern seen in most apps but its always good to prove the hypothesis.

Pricing: $19/month starting price going to $399/month for 100k data samples

Optimimo (http://www.optimimo.com) – A/B Testing, Heatmaps & user surveys all in one solution.

Pricing: $49/month for 10k users. $349/month for 200k MAUs

Swrve (https://www.swrve.com) – It’s a multi utility service offering A/B testing, push notifications and in-app messaging with data analytics.

Pricing: Free to try. $2500/month for 500k users

Taplytics (https://taplytics.com) – A/B testing tool exclusively for iOS. Allows real time changes & real time analytics.

Pricing: Free to start. $150/month for unlimited MAUs (Best value for money incase you only have iOS app to test)

Vessel (https://www.vessel.io) – Just another A/B testing tool claiming to have all the usual features

Pricing: $150/month to start. $650/month for 500k MAUs

5(b) Feedback & Fixes – Collect feedback, identify issues and reduce negative ratings for your app

Apphance (http://www.utest.com/apphance) – Best testers can easily report bugs. It provides crash reporting and in-app user feedback.

Pricing: Can go up to $10k/month depending on what features you select

Apptamin (http://www.apptamin.com) – Create demo video for your app for explaining the usage of your app. It generates professional looking videos which can be used to promote in app store or external marketings

Pricing: Starting from $1050

Apptentive (http://www.apptentive.com) – It collects in-app feedback and stops negative feedback to go to app store. You can also provide in-app support to your users. It’s a highly recommended addition to your app.

Pricing: Starts from $0. Pay $299/month for unlimited transactions

BugSense (https://www.bugsense.com) – Get instant crash report from your app. It can integrate with PivotalTracker and Github

Pricing: Free for beginners. $99 for pro version

Crashlytics (http://try.crashlytics.com) – Real time crash reporting for Android & iOS apps. USP of Crashlytics is its beautiful dashboard & reporting

Pricing: Free

Crittericsm (https://www.crittercism.com) – They call is mobile application performance management – whatever that means. In my personal opinion, it is one of the most effective bug reporting tool.

Pricing: Free for basic version. $500/month for plus version

6. Win Back

winback

For every App, there will be users who will go inactive. You have to ensure they come back. There are some tools which help you do that effectively.

Appboy (http://www.appboy.com/products) – Send push notifications to get users back to your app or create news feed. You can even set email push from your app based on consumer segments. It will help you to keep in touch with your users.

Pricing: Free for 1000 users. $5k for 1mn users

Betaglide (http://www.betaglide.com) – Its like an in-app CRM offering in-app feedback, personalized push notifications and consumer targeting based on location, demographics & engagement levels.

Pricing: NA

Boxcar (https://boxcar.io/developer) – Plain simple universal push notification tool.

Pricing: $350 for 1500 pushes per minute. Exact clarity on price structure is not available

Push.IO (http://push.io) – Push notification + conversion analysis = just another tool.

Pricing: $350/month average

Shephertz App42 (http://api.shephertz.com/app42-docs/push-notification-service) – India based Shephertz offers its App42 cloud APIs which helps you integrate push notifications in your apps.

Pricing: On Request from sales@shephertz.com

Urban Airship (http://urbanairship.com) – Gold standard in push notifications. It offers features like personalized pushes, segment builder, event based pushes and actionable analytics. Highly recommended

Pricing: Pay as you go $0.001 cents per push. $10k/month for Enterprise edition

7. Development Toolkits

At the end, here is the collection of some development tools, which will help developers build apps rapidly without spending too much time coding.

AppBuilder (http://www.apps-builder.com) – Quickly create apps without writing a piece of code. Works across platforms and give you real time preview as you develop. You can even create commerce apps by adding cart functionality.

Pricing: $39/month

App Press (http://www.app-press.com) – Create native apps on the fly for Android & iOS with drag & drop features. No coding experience needed.

Pricing: Starting from $75/month

AppMakr (http://www.appmakr.com) – Use simple browser based tool to create iPhone & Android app. No coding experience needed.

Pricing: $9/month for both Android & iOS app

Taplynx (http://taplynx.com) – Develop native iPhone & iPad apps using Taplynx framework. Does not create native looking apps. Not recommended

Mobivite (http://mobivite.net) – India based Mobivite helps you create beautiful looking mobile apps & WAP site in a jiffy

Pricing: Free to start. $8/Annum for premium version

Appcelerator (http://www.appcelerator.com) – Copied from their site J  >> Deliver native cross-platform apps at the speed of web, mobilize any data source, and drive success with real-time analytics – all from an open, cloud-based platform.

Pricing: Open source version is free

Parse (https://parse.com) – Complete framework for building native apps. Includes common backend to develop multi OS app. Their framework includes APIs for push notifications, analytics and content management

Pricing: Basic version is Free. Pro version is at $199/month

Here is a quick snapshot of all the tools mentioned above categorized for easy viewing:

all categories

 

(c) Published with permission from the author

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  • Anonymous

    Next paytm CEO !!

    • Guest

      Everyone at Paytm is the CEO of his/her unit :) Cheers

  • Sachin Ahuja

    @Deepak: It’s a good article and provides lot of good insight but have a query in this i.e according to your opinion won’t embedding so many different SDK’s (for different functions) lead to increase in size of the application further leading to instability in the client? In India still majority of the people access internet via EDGE network which is on a slower side & hence, won’t it impact user experience somewhere?

    • Deepak Abbot

      Yes you have to be very particular about what SDKs you add. It bloats your app. You need to make a business call on what is important. I do not recommend more than 3-4 critical SDKs

  • Tejas Tanna

    Nice article – however, just on Mobclix – please remove them from this list. Google them for the reasons. They have filed for bankruptcy quite a few months back & have no one left in the company and haven’t paid publishers since August 2012 & now have stopped serving ads too.

    • Deepak Abbot

      Yah my mistake. I worked with them in the past so added them not realizing they are closing down. Thanks for pointing it out

  • Aaron Mahl

    Comprehensive list, very cool. Would be helpful for a breakout with actual info, not just promotional company fluff. Talk to some real devs. Based on my experiences, this list could be weeded out to only include Airpush, Tapjoy and maybe Millennial Media. I am an Android guy, so I pretty much just use Airpush to monetize now (best money I’ve made so far) but if you’re in the iOS family, you’ll need Tapjoy or MM, two awesome choices, easy to use, good money. Really can’t go wrong there.

  • Sumeet Jaroliya

    Very informative article. Though I know most of the tools and use some (free ones) I got status of tools that can be useful for me. Would like to add more in ASO tools Searchman & appcodes and for market research of apps App Annie & Distimo :)

    Gr8 article :)

  • dinesh

    Great Concise article Deepak .. Thanks a lot

  • Jiten Arora

    This is very helpful Deepak!

  • Arun Raj

    Thanks a lot Deepak. Very helpful