Web developers for a long time have used a site called BuiltWith to determine what technologies power top websites, including what hosts, analytics providers, shopping cart systems, and more run behind-the-scenes of top domains. Now app store data provider Apptopia is doing something similar for mobile applications by looking at which SDKs (software development kits) are installed in nearly any application live now on the iTunes App Store or Google Play.
SDKs allow developers to include additional functionality in a mobile application beyond the basics of using the app itself. Developers may use a Facebook SDK to help new users more quickly sign up for their service by using their Facebook account credentials, for example. They may use an advertising SDK to help them generate revenue, or an analytics SDK to track user behavior.
But for any given function a developer wants to add, there are several – maybe even dozens or more – possibilities. With Apptopia, developers can now peer into any mobile app to see what SDKs are installed, and they can also analyze how the apps that use a specific SDK break down by category.
For instance, this chart (below), shows the breakdown for apps that use the Crashlytics SDK, the crash reporting solution now owned by Twitter.
Or it could tell you that an app like Angry Birds uses Facebook Ads, Flurry, InMobi, AdColony, Millennial Media, Mobclix, MoPub, Weibo, and W3C (whew!) to generate revenue.
The new service can track SDK trends, too. For example, the below graph shows the trends associated with the Google Analytics SDK over a few weeks.
And it can show the top SDKs across an entire platform, like the top SDKs on Google Play or iTunes:
Top SDKs for iOS
1. Admob – 36,584
2. Facebook – 19,039
3. Chartboost – 19,009
4. RevMob -16,162
5. Google Analytics – 11,618
Top SDKs for Google Play
1. Facebook – 20,751
2. Flurry – 12,062
3. Amazon – 10,292
4. Millennial Media – 10,077
5. Chartboost – 8.909
Jonathan Kay, Apptopia founder, says that the SDK data is pulled from the top ranked free apps in iTunes and Google Play in the U.S., which equates to about 60,000 apps for each store.
By analyzing the data en masse, Kay’s team was able to spot some interesting SDK trends.
Nearly All Top 25 Highest Grossing Apps Use Facebook SDK & Other Trends
For starters, the most installed advertising SDK is AdMob. Approximately 37.1% of ranked apps had AdMob installed, says Kay. Meanwhile, among the top 25 free applications, the most installed advertising SDKs were InMobi and Millennial Media. Flurry, followed by AppsFlyer, was the most installed analytics SDK.
Free apps tend to have more SDKs installed compared with Top Grossing apps, with, on average, 6 different monetization tools installed. Meanwhile, the Top 10 highest grossing apps have very few SDKs installed.
“It seems bigger companies tend to do most of ad mediation and analytics in-house,” Kay explains. They make money because of the game mechanics and game theory incorporated in their apps, not their SDKs.
Among the top 25 highest grossing apps, nearly all (over 90%) have Facebook’s SDK installed, and the most installed advertising/monetization SDK is Chartboost’s (over 50%). The most installed analytics, tracking and optimization SDK is TUNE (formerly mobileapptracking.com).
Apptopia isn’t the only company to offer this sort of insight. SourceDNA is already well-known among the developer crowd for offering details about the SDKs installed in apps. But beyond that, there aren’t many – if any – other competitors.
Apptopia, which has expanded beyond its app reseller marketplace to app store insights, says the new service has been live for less than two weeks and hasn’t made any formal announcements.