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Mobile SDK Fatigue and How it Can Make or Break Your Marketing

Ronnie Sternberg (Guest Author) Mar 09, 2017

Well, it’s here, there’s no denying it. The SDK fatigue, SDK crunch, or even worse SDK hell. It’s here and it’s a real issue that all of us in the mobile app industry – app publishers, developers and marketers – must deal with.

SDK fatigue impacts our business, product quality and marketing, and it influences our ability to compete or become leaders in our market.

So what is it exactly?

As the mobile industry evolved, more and more SDKs became available, offering a world of opportunities around development, growth, retention and monetization…

App businesses that acted rapidly implemented multiple SDKs, enjoying advanced features and capabilities, while gaining a significant competitive advantage.

But it wasn’t all joy and rainbows. At best, it was messy. Multiple SDKs in a single app forces us to manage and optimize these SDKs, just like with any other piece of code.

App publishers simply don’t have the time and resources to manually chaperone each one of their app’s SDKs and make sure they are well behaved. And even if they do, most of them aren’t even aware of the optimal ways to do so.

With the realization that more SDKs mean less control over their code, app publishers think twice before adding any additional SDKs.

The SDK fatigue is a common phrase that’s meant to describe the situation almost every app publisher / developer is faced with: having all those SDKs integrated in his or her app (17.8 on average, to be exact, according to SafeDK’s latest report), without the proper ability to manage, monitor and optimize them, while ensuring no harm is done. Sounds tiring, right? Hence the name.

sdk by q

Why is the SDK fatigue a big deal?
SDK fatigue is a big deal because it’s causing a lot of apps to crash and slow down, drain the users’ battery and what not.

Why? By mismanaging or “unmanaging” their SDKs, publishers actually put their apps at the hands of unstable SDKs. Of course many SDKs are of top quality, but some may be unreliable and may cause some serious damage.

Questionable SDKs can piggyback on top of app permissions to access users’ private data, they may contain bugs, consume a great deal of battery power and data, crash the app, slow it down and so forth. For example, BabyBus apps were suspended from Google Play due to an SDK that collected location data on their underage users. This is just one example out of many.

Although SDK fatigue is mostly associated with the product, nobody is talking about how it affects an app’s entire operation, since the impact does not only touch upon an app’s stability; it also affects the monetization and marketing teams, and consequently the company’s overall success.

sdk verticals

Implications on the development team
The dev team should be aware of what’s going on within the app at all times and monitor every aspect of it. Since there are many 3rd party SDKs integrated into an app, this team needs to work extra hard in order to make sure that the SDKs are compatible with the app code and with each other. They must also constantly monitor all updates, which defeats the purpose of using SDKs that were created to simplify a dev team’s life in the first place.

For example, if one of 17 implemented SDKs has an update version, the developer has to thoroughly test it and test the app. App developers are forced to micromanage their app to ensure smooth sailing. They get tired and they don’t want to hear about adding another SDK.

sdk categories

Implications on the marketing team
Good app marketers keep asking to add advanced features that are enabled by 3rd party SDKs, and rightly so. Capabilities such as analytics, monetization, social, marketing automation and many more are meant to promote the app and turn it into a success.

Furthermore, app marketers continuously monitor their competitors; they want to try every new feature used by a competing app, as soon as possible, if possible. So, naturally, they often approach the product and dev teams, and ask to implement this new SDK or that new SDK.

When there’s SDK fatigue, these app marketers encounter resentment from the other teams and are requested to move on without it. They keep hearing “NO” and they eventually give up on innovation, compromising what they have already achieved and risking stagnation. That’s bad.

Companies that do know how to efficiently manage SDKs, and have implemented SDK management tools or mediation SDKs, easily support their marketing teams’ requests, and as such implement more 3rd party tools that are critical for mobile app growth, retention, and monetization. This, of course, gives them a significant advantage over other app companies that aren’t as good at managing multiple mobile SDKs.

So how can you avoid SDK fatigue? 

  • As an app publisher, developer, or marketer you should actively look for tools to help you consolidate or manage multiple mobile SDKs, preferably real-time tools (e.g. attribution companies, in-app protection solutions etc.)
  • Implement processes to evaluate and monitor SDKs behavior quickly and efficiently so only quality SDKs get the coveted entry ticket to your app.
  • DON’T hold back on SDK implementation just because you are experiencing ‘the SDK fatigue’ – holding back might cause you to lose ground to your competition
  • Look around, there is plenty of information about SDKs out there. There’s no need to start from scratch, or reinvent the wheel. There are a couple of SDK marketplaces to help you and provide information about specific SDKs or SDK categories, so you can get a clear picture on where your desired SDK is used and how it affects performance. It’s a good way to find out if an SDK is prone to cause crashes, app slowness, slow start time, etc. Also look for mobile intelligence tools, which allow you to search for similar apps to your own and understand which SDKs they are using. If the app you searched for is well-established, good chances are that it is only using reliable SDKs.

Final words
The fact that SDK fatigue exists doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do about it. It’s up to us, in the app business, to steer the car in the right direction. And since all of us are affected by it – app publishers, developers and marketers – we should all work to get on top of the SDK mess. This can be achieved by developing and using the right processes and tools to monitor the SDKs we integrate. Good luck!