Google Analytics & Apple Store Analytics Sessions Differences

So you have a mobile app. Fast, interactive and reliable, it has gathered quite a fanbase and now you’d like to assess it. Since you or someone in your analytics team is aware that mobile app analytics is a holy grail of any successful mobile app, so you do both – track your Apple Store sessions and sessions in Google Analytics.

But sometimes, or more often than sometimes, the numbers of your Google Analytics sessions and Apple Store sessions don’t match. Why? Let’s find out in our new article.

Google Analytics sessions vs Apple Store sessions

Why is important to understand users’ behaviour for a mobile application? Well, because your customers are the ones paying you money. So the better you understand motives behind their actions – what makes them download your app, what entices them to make in-app purchases and what inspires them to recommend your mobile application to others – the more features and services you can sell to your existing app users and the faster you can find new ones.

Understanding your users’ behaviour is what differentiates a good mobile app business from a bad one. That’s why it is so important to not only track your mobile app users’ actions but also ensure their depiction in your mobile analytics is accurate.  

But sometimes it’s not. In some instances, if your Google Analytics or Apple App Store has been set up wrong, you will receive numbers differing in hundreds of thousand between each system – say 3,000 users in Apple Store and 10,000 users in Google Analytics, like it happened in our case study you can see here: Case Study: The importance of Accurate Data Collection and Data Quality Assurance.

Google Analytics sessions vs Apple Store sessions

But in some instances, all of your mobile analytics are set up perfectly, and working with the precision of the best Swiss clock that ever existed, and yet your mobile application reports in Google Analytics and Apple Store are quite different. That happens because distinct definitions are applied for the same terms in different systems, and some metrics may be just calculated differently in Google Analytics and Apple Store mobile analytics platforms.

One example of such a contrasting definition is Google Analytics sessions vs Apple Store sessions differences, which we are about to review in detail below.

Google Analytics sessions

As any app analytics subject, understanding Google Analytics sessions is straightforward once you learn more about it, but quite peculiar before you do. To understand how do sessions reports in Google Analytics work, let’s start with a definition of sessions in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics session is a set of interactions performed by a single user within a given time period. It contains every app page he’s been to, every click he’s made, every video he’s watched up until the session is complete.

what is Google Analytics sessions visual explanation

There are 3 possible ways a Google Analytics session ends:

  • 30 Minutes of inactivity
  • End of the day 
  • Campaign switch

Let’s review these features of sessions reports in Google Analytics one by one.

30 Minutes of inactivity

Every Google Analytics session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity performed by the app user. That is only a default setting of sessions reports in Google Analytics, and you can adjust this period to last from a few seconds to a couple of hours. 

This session timer is quite merciless, so if the user has gone for a break for 31:30, 32 or 34 minutes, anything longer than exactly 30 minutes to be exact, Google Analytics will count his new action as a different session, even if the opened app window hasn’t been closed.  


End of the day 

Now, this reason for a Google Analytics session closure is quite a quaint one. Every Google Analytics session ends exactly at midnight each day no matter how the user interacts with it. 

Even if the user is active within the 30-minute time period, the single Google Analytics session he would have had at any other time turns into 2 separate sessions – before and after midnight – if he browses your app on the verge of the day.

Campaign switch

The last reason on the list of session closures in Google Analytics is a campaign switch. What does that mean? That means if a user came to your app’s homepage first through the organic search, and then left the app, and returned to it by clicking on a display banner ad he found while browsing, Google Analytics will count it as 2 different sessions.

It is way more relevant for web users and happens less often to those tracking mobile analytics of an app. Nonetheless, it is crucial to know about it as it explains some weird numbers that may be occurring within sessions reports in Google Analytics cabinet.

Is it possible to modify Google Analytics session reports? 

Now that we revealed Google Analytics session definition and explained 3 ways in which these sessions end, it is only natural to wonder “Is it possible to modify Google Analytics session reports?” 

The answer is – yes, you can modify Google Analytics session reports. But only to some extent. As we mentioned earlier you can change the default Google Analytics session timeout from 30 minutes to any other length. If your users get logged out of the app while playing an intense game, for example, their total scores or coins will get lost, which is no fun for anyone.

Or if the content you offer requires way more time to absorb or interact with than allowed by a 30-minute period, you might want to reconsider the half an hour session limit and change it to your own. 

Another thing you can change about Google Analytics session reports is to exclude specific referral traffic. This is useful when you market your app on sisterly platforms that belong to you and would like to keep the entire journey of a single user within one session. 

Apple Store sessions

Now your Apple App Store analytics sessions, which can be found in your App Store Connect dashboard, are quite different from mobile application reports in Google Analytics. 

For starters, you will only receive data from users who run iOS 8 and higher, and who have decided to share their information with Apple. This factor eliminates a large portion of users from the Apple Store sessions and contributes to the fact that your Google Analytics sessions number will be much higher than that of sessions in the Apple Store.

To be fair, Google Analytics also misses a number of sessions due to people blocking cookies, but that number of lost sessions is uncomparably lower than that of Apple Store. There is surprisingly little to no information for Apple App store developers on the web, no online tutorials or guides like there is for Google Analytics developers.

According to App Store Analytics, a session is user interaction with an app that has been used for at least two seconds. If the app has been left on the background and switched to another application, your return will count as another session.

Conclusion

As you can see, the difference between sessions in Google Analytics and sessions in the Apple Store is quite drastic. Each of the mobile app analytics platforms counts sessions differently, and when you weight in the fact that each of them analyzes only a certain number of users – those that opted-in – the difference in numbers of your Google Analytics and Apple store sessions is quite natural.

When you have extra questions regarding your sessions or mobile app analytics in general – contact us. Helping companies become data-driven is what we do, is what we love doing 🙂