Keys-by-TEARN mobile platform
Diary of a passionate, tech Dad
from TEARN i.e. teach to learn


Aug 28, 2010

Mobile Metrics, thanks for 150,000 downloads

We have reached 150,000 since March 2010. Thank you.

Traditional Metrics are Failing

Measuring mobile use has been a challenge as traditional companies such as Alexa, Compete, Google Analytics, and Neilsen have failed to keep up with the massive shift of users to mobile devices. Devices such as the iPhone and WAP phones don't allow background tasks that traditionally report what users are seeing on the web.

Legacy phone surveys are biased; and simply too slow to keep up with the quickly changing landscape.

The graph below shows the web views of compete.com. Interestingly, it shows the drastic decline of their own visits as compete.com has become less relevant in measuring web activity.

Similarly, Google Analytics (GA) reports that 83.1% of our users come via direct sources to our sites, and not from search or referral sources. Further, 71% use an unknown phone. Essentially, GA does not know the source of our 150,000 plus users; and inaccurately reports the minority of data that reaches them through the slower 3G networks.

Cobbling the Answer

Developers depend on data to assess user loyalty and plan feature improvements. Today, we cobble together solutions through piecemeal reports from dozens of inaccurate sources. For example:
  • We use multiple light-weight systems to redundantly monitor use. Since networks depend on slow 3G, the monitoring mechanism is light weight to avoid harming the user experience.
  • Apple supplies half a dozen reports on downloads and purchases. It's not real time. There is no central system.
  • Most reports have varying delays from several hours for GA, to 2 business days for Palm, and 30 days for Apple.
  • The many reports rarely agree in terms of the number of visitors, but does agree on the overall trends.
Thus, our compilation and analysis of data is slow and imperfect.

Is there a solution on the horizon? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
  • The mobile platforms can produce better reports, but it's not on the priority list for Apple, Google, Blackberry, or Palm.
  • Further, the solution would still be fragmented and subject to each company's interpretation of the raw data.
  • 4G deployments would take years to reach the majority of users. Once deployed, background tasks from third parties could better report the results.
Pundits Keep Blogging

Despite the lack of data, the experts continue to blog about mobile. Thousands of independent developers hold the real, but fragmented data on the true growth of mobile. But, are we not like the famed fable of the blind men and the elephant?

Without formal data, readers should beware that conclusions reported by even the top news sources, like the New York Times, simply lack credibility.

An example of incorrect trends includes the stories on the Palm community. While the press has reported negatively on Palm, our data shows a loyal, thriving, active community.

The only significant trend is that mobile is growing -- very, very fast.

Thank you for 150,000 downloads.

PS: Our goal is to reach 1 million downloads by Christmas. Stay tuned as we work with our partners to enable this growth.

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