Facebook Updates Its Android SDK, Bringing It In Line With iOS SDK, To Herd More Android Devs Into Its Mobile Fold

Facebook has updated its Android SDK, bringing it in line with the feature set it pushed out to its iOS SDK in April. Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that all the new features being added to the Android SDK were already available to iOS developers. The updated Android SDK is available immediately via Facebook’s Android Dev Center. It’s the first update to Facebook’s Android SDK since December’s v3.0 update. Facebook’s Chris Lang announced the changes in a blog post today.

The SDK updates are aimed at making it easier for Android developers to integrate Facebook’s services into their apps, which of course helps Facebook embed itself into the third-party mobile app ecosystem. This is arguably an even more important mission for the social network, since its attempt to subvert other people’s apps — via its Facebook Home Android homescreen takeover — has fallen so spectacularly on its face.

According to the social network, more than 73 percent of the top 100 grossing Android apps integrate with Facebook vs. 87 percent of the top 100 grossing iOS apps. In April, 70 percent of the top-100 grossing Android apps included Facebook integration, with more than 81 percent of top 100 grossing iOS apps including it. So while Android inches up, it’s still playing catch-up with iOS integration. Facebook’s sales pitch to developers is thus: help us to cash in, and we can help you, too.

Facebook now has 800+ million mobile users, up from the 680+ million it reported in April. It does not break these users out by mobile platform but when asked specifically about Android growth, it said: “The number of Android developers using our tools is growing rapidly.”

And with Android fast approaching 80 percent global share of the smartphone market, according to recent IDC figures, there’s plenty more apps and developers for Facebook to usher into its fold. Android is also dominant in developing markets that are also growth markets for smartphones — making them all the more important for Facebook. Which does rather raise the question why it’s still prioritising iOS developer tools ahead of Android ones. But perhaps that’s something that will change in future.

The new features in Facebook’s Android SDK include:

  • Share Dialog — which makes it easier for developers to build in-app activity sharing to their apps so users don’t have to log in to Facebook to share what they’re doing in the app to the social network. “With one line of code, developers can enable people to skip three extra steps and immediately share to Facebook”
  • Object API — which makes it easier for developers to integrate Open Graph into Android apps. As per iOS, Android developers “can now directly create Open Graph objects, and no longer need to host webpages with Open Graph tags”
  • Redesigned Login UI — again, as with the iOS SDK, the focus in on Facebook loading faster on mobile devices

In addition, Facebook says the Android SDK is also getting a beta feature that lets developers publish and measure “app events” for their apps to build up a clearer picture of mobile ad engagement. This is also apparently already implemented on iOS. “[Android] developers can now measure the aggregate number of times a predefined action was taken within an app, to help developers understand the engagement and ROI coming from mobile ads on Facebook,” it notes in the blog post.

Back in July, reporting its Q2 earnings, Facebook said mobile advertising represented 41 percent of its total ad revenue in the quarter — up from 30 percent in Q1. The social network said it expects mobile ad revenue to outstrip desktop ad revenue. Underpinning that growth requires Facebook to continue extending its reach into the third-party app ecosystem by getting more developers on board integrating their apps with its services.

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden contributed to this report