Track users in your app with analytics tools


Knowing how many people download your app, how much money you’re making or what users think of your app is important. But it’s definitely not the only thing you should be tracking.

It’s not all about the number of downloads. You also need to learn how, when, where and by what kind of audience your app is used.

Of course you can get a sense of that when you have people trying your app in front of you…But if you really want to know how well your app is doing, you need some more data. And believe it or not, your users are probably not using your app exactly like you think they are.

What to track and why

An  interesting post from Dave McLure explains the key metrics startups should use. I tend to believe that a lot of things that are true for startups are true for mobile apps too. For example, I think that app developers should copy more what entrepreneurs do for marketing before their launch. But I digress…Here are the “Pirate” metrics Dave talks about:

Key Startup Metrics to Monitor

You can measure some of the acquisition/revenue metrics using app downloads and revenue tracking tools, but if you use only that you will still be missing some important data.

By monitoring the right things, you’ll be able to learn a lot about your users and improve your app or your game.

A couple of other things before jumping to our thoughts on the different tools:

  • Start monitoring things before you publish your app on the mobiles stores: even if you got only a few beta testers (try having as many as possible!), the data can still be used as an indicator
  • Different tools for different apps: what might be a perfect tool for a kind of app might bring much less value for another
  • Track what makes sense for your app and for your audience: not every app has the same objectives. And depending on which stage you are at, the KPIs that make more sense might change.
  • Cohort analysis is really important
  • Know where your app is going: do your best to pick a tool that you can still use (or afford) when you get more users, add platforms or countries

In-App Usage Analytics

Luckily, there are several tools for in-app analytics and some are free or have free versions. Some provide other features than in-app usage analytics (cross-promotion, ads etc.). This can be important to make your choice but it’s not the topic of this post so that part is not detailed.

All the solutions mentioned will require you to use an SDK as well as some level of customization.

A couple folks working at these companies have interesting things to say about their  products and in-app usage analytics on Quora, you should check it out.

Disclaimer: the views expressed here are only ours, and some of the tools we couldn’t test extensively. We did our best not to make any mistake when talking about these tools, and if by any chance we did please let us know and we’ll happily correct them.

Flurry Analytics

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Java ME

Flurry is a pretty complete tool for your mobile app analytics. For each app, you can either use the “classic” dashboard or create up to 10 custom dashboards. That compensates for the fact that to get some analytics, you sometimes need several clicks which can get frustrating.

Flurry Analytics Dashboard

Here is the kind of info you can find or use in the dashboards:

  • Usage: active users, sessions, session lengths, frequency, retention, etc.
  • Audience: interest of users(your other apps + category), personas (type of your users – defined by Flurry), demographic
  • Technical: devices, carriers, firmware versions, errors
  • Events: define events, see user paths, create funnels

Understand the User Path (above) and optimize conversion by analyzing funnels (below)

Depending on the data/charts you’re looking at, you can filter via segments (age, first session, usage, country, etc), app versions and dates.

Probably because Flurry offers lots of other services (like ads), this tool is free yet provides a lot of analytics.
If you’re using Flurry, below is a video explaining how to create events and why:

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We like:
 thorough yet free, multiple dashboards, user paths and funnels
Not so much: lots of click required to get info, errors/crashes hard to identify, no cohort analysis

Universal Analytics (Google)

Price: Free
Platform: iOS, Android

It might seem suprising, but  Google didn’t launch a mobile app analytics tool before the end of June 2012. Mobile is huge, and they obviously want a key role in analytics. They have the advantage over their competitors that many people have been used to Google Analytics.

The Google Analytics for mobile apps SDK was first only available in beta, and is now part of Universal Analytics (out of beta since April 2014).

Universal Analytics is a pretty big deal if your product is cross-devices and requires sign in, because it is based on a User ID which allows for example to count 3 visits of one person across different devices as only 1 unique visitor:

Cross device measurement with universal analytics

In the same way, if you track conversion and revenue in Universal Analytics, it will be cross device and will even let you know the path (which action was done on which device).

What if you just have a mobile app? Just like you would expect, Google Mobile App Analytics provides metrics to analyze your app performance. Your app overview gives you reports organized in four categories:

  • Acquisitions: find out about who your new users are. For Android apps on the Google Play Store, you can also track where your users are coming from and for example know how many sessions they’ve used or in-app revenue they’ve generated with Google Play Sources.
    Google Play Referral Flow

    Know which source visitors come from, and how many installs and actual users you’re getting. More  here.

  • Mobile App Audience / Users: just like for the web, you can know about new vs. returning users, their country/language, the app version, etc.
  • Mobile App Behavior / Engagement: you can use event tracking like you do on your website, get reports on speed, crashes and exceptions.
  • Mobile App Conversion: you can set up goal, track the conversion of your objectives and see the goal flow (Google’s equivalent to the funnel/user path).
Those mobile analytics (and Universal Analytics as a whole) are pretty complete, and Google is probably going to roll out new features as well.

We like:
 lots of the needed features, easier to learn if you already used GA, integration with Google Play for conversion tracking (and more to come)
Not so much: no cohort analysis, no integration with iTunes for conversion (I don’t see that happening)


Price: Freemium (see prices here)
Stores: iOS, Android

Mixpanel is an event-based analytics tools: account creation, sharing, upgrade, purchase, etc. You have to define events and event properties for your app.

You can:

  • Track these events separately or create series of events (funnels).
  • Use cohort analysis to see exactly how often users come back and engage with your application.
  • Build complex queries based on events and demographics
  • Tie mobile to web and vice versa
  • If you have users’ info
    • Tie data to a person
    • “Explore” user segments and engage users via email/SMS/push notifications

Mixpanel-Mobile Analytics

Below is a video made by the MixPanel team to explain the tool:

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Mixpanel lets you analyze your app retention by seeing how often your customers return and engage with your application. And to get the full picture, it uses cohort analysis which groups your users by day, week or month based on a specific event. Here’s more info:

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In the free version, you’re limited to 25,000 data points / month. A data point is counted every time you track an event with Mixpanel. So, for a music app and if you track only songs played, that could be 2,500 users playing 10 songs each.

Mixpanel also has an “Activity Feed”, that lets you see a timeline of every action a user (when identified by a profile) takes in your app from day 1. They also integrated revenue tracking.

We like: event-based and easy to create funnels, nice UI and allows in-depth analysis, can tie web to mobile, cohort analysis
Not so much: limited in data points in free version, but you can get more (currently 175,000) by adding their badge to your website footer.


Price: Free trial
Platform: iOSand Android

AppSee has quite a unique approach. It is a visual in-app analytics platform that helps measuring, understanding (and therefore improve) user experience. Not only you get the “usual” analytics and stats, but you get some “qualitative” information on users’ behaviors as well.

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Watch recordings of real users sessions to understand what exactly happens: for example, why users abandon the registration screen. You can control the ratio of recorded users or target specific users.

You also have access to Heatmaps to understand on which parts of your app (screens) users focus the most.

AppSee realtime in-app analytics dashboard

AppSee automatically creates events based on the user interaction with your app, and you can create conversion funnels based on these events or specific screens.


AppSee conversion funnel example

You see users stopping at one step of the funnel? Just watch the corresponding user recordings to find out why so you can fix it. Smart.

Appsee provides a free 14-day trial that includes all the features. The paid plans are tailored to the customers’ needs and based on the supported platforms, number of tracked sessions and apps.

We like: unique visual and qualitative approach
Not so much: hard to find something

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