Google and Apple Protecting User Data

Post By Hannah Downing

Google and Apple have been making strides when it comes to creating a safer, more transparent app space for consumers. For Google, this comes in the form of a new strategy to weed out the bad apps from the good ones. For Apple, this means specifically creating restrictions when it comes to user data, such as location services, and restricting this data to certain types of apps.

As Abner Li recently wrote for 9to5Google, Google is implementing a comparison strategy to find apps that may be requesting data from users that is irrelevant to the functioning of the app and, therefore, should not be requested. Google wants to stop this kind of data collection because they think this data is often being shared, too, which they see as unfair and unsafe to the consumer. To make this process as efficient as possible and to minimize mistakes, Google is using machine learning to execute this strategy. Apps are categorized by similar functionalities and any app with differences within that group is flagged for Google to look into further. As an example, Li quoted that Google might flag a coloring book app that is requesting and sharing a user’s location if no other coloring book app even requests this kind of data, especially since something like location would likely not be relevant to the success and functionality of a coloring book app. Google is also adding to their efforts to restrict data collection by limiting how frequently background data can be collected from a user within a certain amount of time.

Apple is taking a different approach to protecting user data, specifically location. James Hercher recently reported for Ad Exchanger that Apple’s new iOS update, due in September, will feature a blue bar appearing at the top of iPhone and iPad screens when apps are tracking the user’s location in the background. The update will include more options for users to control when each app is allowed to track their location. There will also be more restrictions for certain apps regarding location, such as only allowing apps one request to “always” track a user’s location.

These changes show a clear effort on both Apple and Google’s part to emphasize the safety of consumer data and each user’s experience overall. We’ve seen multiple instances of this new emphasis on the user rather than developers or marketers lately, including upcoming changes to the App Store and Google Play, that allow for more relevant and clear information to be displayed to users, further allowing for informed decisions to be made by users. In the end, both app developers and marketers are going to be held to high standards as these platforms continue making changes to accommodate the user and users will get the experience they deserve.

Google Play Changes Ranking Criteria

Post By Hannah Downing

Google recently announced a change to their app store, Google Play, but it is of a different nature than Apple's App Store revamp—Google is changing the way they rank apps in the app store. As ExchangeWire reports, "...the [Google] store is favoring apps that are used by consumers regularly and over time, not just those that were downloaded frequently."

In other words, exclusively having your app downloaded many times will not guarantee it a top spot in the Google Play store anymore. Instead, the store will be ranking the apps based on how often users return to them and how engaged their users are overall. This change seems to be coming in an effort to help users be more informed about the apps they are downloading by showing them which apps have continued working well for other users.

This change makes sense and it begs the question if Apple will make this change to the App Store, too. The change makes sense because very few people download an app with the intention of using it only once or twice, especially when you consider people who have less storage on their devices, which forces them to consider every download they make. Instead, with this new ranking system, Google is helping users compare similar apps more easily and, therefore, make a more educated decision on what they're downloading (and sometimes buying). This is much more helpful than ranking apps by their popularity because an app's total downloads can climb to great numbers, but that does not always mean the users' expectations are being met. This new way of ranking apps will show which apps not only have met, but continue to meet, users' expectations.

ExchangeWire writes about how this change in the Google Play store means app marketers will have to focus more on quality than they may have in the past. However, this does not mean they should ignore quantity. ExchangeWire writes, "Without promoting an app and hitting some critical mass, none of the other metrics matter. Even if you have years-long retention and hourly engagement, it won't matter if your app is only installed on a hundred devices." Rather, marketers will have to keep an eye on both, making sure they are targeting quality downloads and that a significant quantity of those downloads occur.

This change means that mobile app marketing companies, like Oplytic, will have to continue to work with marketers and publishers to identify the best sources for quality downloads and find ways to track users' actions efficiently after the app is downloaded. As ExchangeWire writes, following the post-install data can help both marketers and product managers understand more about their app and users' experiences with the app. With this, user experience can be improved to keep users engaged, resulting in a high ranking in the Google Play store.