Setting up your analytics can be a challenging task, especially when the set up is destined for mobile phone applications. Which setup platforms to choose for your mobile app, what mobile analytic tools are best, which app platforms are compatible, and moreover – work better together?

These and all other mobile app related questions will be answered in our new article, called Google Analytics Best Setup Practices for Mobile Apps. To help you navigate through the comprehensive world of Mobile App setup, we will answer the most commonly-asked questions first, and then move on to describing each of three top setup platforms – Firebase, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager – in particular.

  • Is it better to use Firebase, Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager together?

The answer is yes, yes it is. Combining these three setup platforms for your mobile apps allows you to get the latest reports on your applications in a prompt and reliable manner. Once you enable Firebase within your app, Google Analytics will automatically synchronize and send reports on events and user properties, which also both can be custom-set.

Using Firebase SDK allows you to automatically collect events without having to add any additional coding. And when it comes to Google Tag Manager, feel free to add it to your Firebase-enables app when you want to get some additional Google and 3rd party tags.  

  • Can I set up Google Analytics only, without GTM or Firebase?

The answer to this question is yes, you can, but you shouldn’t. Although all three platforms circle around analytics for mobile apps, they all have their specialties, which include their strength and weaknesses when it comes to certain features. Firebase allows to you receive unlimited reporting without sampling, although it lacks data visualization features that Google Analytics does have, and vice verse. These three apps need each other, as they complete the whole mobile analytics picture once set up all together.

1. Firebase SDK

Firebase is a mobile & web application development platform, which allows building apps without server-side coding involved. It’s a Google-based platform, which enables a large number of perks and functions for a developer, including push notifications, hosting, analytics, cloud messaging, app indexing, real-time database, and much more with all of them available for both – iOS and Android.

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Google Analytics & Firebase

The question we often hear is “If I would like to set up Google Analytics does it require to set up Firebase or just recommended?”. To answer it we’ll have to go back to the definition of the platform. Google Analytics is a comprehensive data-analytics tool, whose main focus in on tracking, collecting, analyzing and showcasing data in an easy to grasp format.

Now, Firebase is an app development tool, which is focused on different areas of developing an app, among which is a Firebase Analytics function. From the definition itself, we can see that although Firebase has it’s own analytics features, it’s absolutely crucial you combine it with Google Analytics for mobile apps for the full, complete, and all-way-round data on your mobile application.

Additional Firebase features

What’s important to remember is Firebase is an umbrella of various products that you can choose based on your goals and aspirations, that work completely separately but unite when it comes to sharing data and insights on the work of your mobile app, which makes them a powerful force when they work together.

Its functions divide into three large categories:

  1. Develop products, which include all the tools you will need to develop an app from hosting and cloud functions to advanced Machine Learning.   
  2. Quality products, which include all the tools aimed to improve applications and increase conversions within them, i.e. Crashlytics, Performance Monitoring and a Test Lab.
  3. Grow products, which are the number of software made to help you grow your app, and includes Predictions, A/B testing, In-app Messaging, Remote Personalization and more.  

Firebase & Loading speed

Since app’s speed is a crucial factor for user engagement, retention, satisfaction and a number of other super-important indicators, it’s logical to conclude increased app speed will lead to increased conversions. So how fast is Firebase? The answer is – real fast.

Firebase uses actual Real-time database, and “real-time” is as fast as it gets for our today understanding. It uses a NoSQL type structure, which is a document storage system, as opposed to working with SQL structure, based on rows and tables. Using a JSON (Javascript Object Notation) storage allows for removing of the barrier between data and objects, and presents with an advantage when it comes to app speed.

Firebase Pros & Cons

Among Firebase obvious pros are:

  • Easy setup
  • High Security
  • Easy data & files access
  • No server required
  • Google-based
  • Real-time processing and more

Cons? Well, there are not so many, as Firebase is deemed to be the most advanced hosted Business as a Service solution of today. Although some people might call it pricey, Firebase Spark’s plan is completely free, the Flame plan is just $25/month, and the Blaze Plan is calculated based on your app’s usage, and you “pay as you go”, according to their website.

And since it’s so easy to use and implement, the only common disadvantage mentioned by people is that after working with Firebase it’s quite inconvenient to switch to other cheaper solutions if you need to.   

2. Google Analytics

Now, this is where the whole Google Analytics for mobile apps topic can get quite confusing. According to Google itself “The Firebase SDK is the recommended method to track iOS apps. You can also use Tag Manager + Firebase to track them”.  So once you do have an app, and you’ve created and set up your Firebase account, all you have to do is add a tool called “Google Analytics” to your set of Firebase products. Google Analytics for mobile apps allows you to have all of your reports, stats and app data in a single user-friendly dashboard.  

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Web Google Analytics VS Mobile Google Analytics

So what’s the difference between Web Google Analytics and Google Analytics for mobile apps, you might ask. Well, desktop websites and mobile applications are quite different in their functionality, usability and technicalities. And so are the analytics made to measure their performance. If you have an app you want the analytics for, don’t think twice and definitely get Google Analytics for mobile app tracking – plus the perks are completely undeniable.

Google Analytics for Firebase is said to provide free, unlimited reporting on up to 500 distinct events. While it automatically captures key events and user properties, you are then able to define the right KPIs and focus on metrics important specifically for your business and app.

Web Google Analytics for Mobile Apps

Can I use Web Google Analytics for a mobile app? – is another commonly asked question.

And the answer to it is simple, but at the same time tricky and time-dependent. The users who’ve been doing so until now have received a curious email to their inbox from Google Analytics saying :

“Dear Google Analytics customer, …

… We want to let you know that in October 2019 we will begin to sunset our Google Analytics for mobile apps reporting and the Google Analytics Services SDK. We are investing our resources in the latest style of app reporting in Google Analytics that works in conjunction with Firebase – Google’s integrated app developer platform. ”

So, the answer to this question is – yes, until October, 31 of 2019 you can use Web Google Analytics for your mobile app. But why would you?

Google Analytics VS other analytics tools

There is a number of alternatives to Firebase Analytics and Google Analytics for mobile apps on the market of event tracking and mobile analytics tools. Each of them is unique in its own way, and suits different individuals and companies depending on their goals and needs.

The first alternative to Google Analytics we’ll review is Appmetric, which is an open-source platform that relies on users donations, and includes a number of separate reporting and event tracking tools like Influx Data, Console, Http and others, which after compiling the numbers have to go through a separate software, like Grafana in the example here, to visualize the data you’ve just collected.

Flurry is the next App Analytics for iOS & Android alternative – an easy-to-integrate app analytics tool that can provide you with “real-time app analytics without opening your wallet”. Flurry is equipped with a dashboard that allows you to include and monitor multiple apps and platforms, while giving valuable reports on demographics, user behaviour, app versions on each app and platform in particular.

AppFigures is another App Analytics and App Store Optimization (ASO) set of tools, used by such industry giants as Airbnb, Slack, Microsoft, Trello and more than 150, 000 other companies. Their tools, which include Sales Prospecting, App Market Intelligence, Rank Monitoring, Performance Analytics and more are divided into three categories by the nature of the user – for App Publishers, Market Analysts, and for SDK makers.

So even though there is a number of platforms, similar to Google Analytics, none of them give quite the overview, functionality and possibility for future improvements & optimization for mobile apps the Google Analytics does.

3. Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a Google Marketing Platform-based tool, which allows for creating, managing and updating your mobile tags without having to use any code editing. There is a completely free plan for businesses of any size and a single platform with all Google Tag Manager solutions for medium to large-sized enterprises.

Mobile Google Tag Manager Setup

Being honest in all that we do and share, we will start from being very straightforward – implementing Google Tag Manager for your mobile app is quite the challenge. Yet no matter how complicated the installation process could be, in the end, it’s all worth it.

To begin with, we have to remember that tracking mobile apps with Google Tag Manager means we are adding an additional layer of event communication, allowing all the actions performed by users to be tracked, measured and reported. The next important thing is the correct tagging. Tagging marketing links and correctly setting up your Google Analytics account is crucial to the success of tracking your mobile apps – if done wrong, the referral information won’t be delivered accurately.

Mobile Google Tag Manager Pros & Cons

When it comes to minuses for GTM for mobile phones, debugging is another thing quite peculiar about Google Tag Manager’s functions. Once the app has been built, the only way to fix an occurred bug is to find a script of user actions, test the app following the script, and then wait for the data to show the place of the pitfall. The Google Analytics real-time data functionality also works differently when it comes to apps, which means apps use a dispatch process and only send data at intervals.

All in all, facing a number of complications when it comes to implementation, the pros of having all your tags organized & ready for management absolutely free outweighs all the cons that appear in the process of using it.