Saturday, March 28, 2015

Interpreting the statistics in the AdDuplex monthly report

Every month AdDuplex, the leading cross promotion network for Windows Phone and Windows Store apps, releases a report with statistics on devices running apps that have their advertising controls embedded. You'll find the latest one (for March 2015) on their blog at

*disclaimer - if you didn't know, I'm a paid advocate for AdDuplex and help in preparing the report*

As happens every couple of months, there has been some discussion about the relevance and completeness of the data used to prepare the report.
I want to address some of these points and add some clarification over what the report actually shows.

Firstly, let's be clear on what the report is.
The report is an analysis of the devices used to show ads from the AdDuplex network on a particular day. It does not attempt or claim to be an analysis of all Windows Phone devices in use worldwide.

If it's not a complete picture, what's the point of the report?
The report serves three purposes:
1.  To provide information to developers who are or are considering using the network.  This was the ultimate aim when the report was first published. To help developers. After all helping developers to best promote their apps is one of the core aims behind AdDuplex.
2.  To raise the profile of the company. Because no one else is publishing such reports this is the best view of the device landscape available and so is newsworthy in appropriate circles.
3.  It’s better than nothing. Without this report, how would you know which devices are actually in use? At best you'd rely on anecdotal evidence or data collected from a smaller sample set.

It's the first point that is most important!
With this information developers can be aware of which devices are most likely to be used to run their app. It's really easy to assume that other people are like you and, just as much as anyone else, developers often fall into this trap.
In general, most developers I speak to who have and use a Windows Phone have a higher spec device. At the moment they're mostly the Lumia 930, 1020 or 1520. Based on this it would be easy for developers to only think about such devices and how their app looks, performs and behaves on such.
However, through looking at the data in the report it is clear that the majority of devices in use are not like these. 60.8% of devices in use are Lumia 5XX and Lumia 6XX devices. These devices have smaller, lower resolution screens and less powerful processors. Without paying attention to it, the experience of apps across different devices can change and be less than desirable in some instances. For this reason it is important to check apps on different devices. This is even more important when the majority of [potential] users are on such low spec devices.

But this still isn't representative of all devices!
There's an argument that people who pay more for a device are less likely to be tolerant of ads in their apps and so won't use them or will pay to remove them. The corollary of this being that people who pay less for their device have less disposable income and so are more likely to be tolerant of having ads displayed in their apps. This argument is based on anecdotal evidence at best as is also likely to be skewed by cultural biases as people in some parts of the world are more tolerant of ads and readily accept them.
Whether the opinion or anecdotal evidence reflects reality or not, this is a point that needs to be addressed.
AdDuplex are not able to answer this question, don't attempt to and for the sake of informing the people who are using their network it doesn't matter.
- Due to the way that the data is gathered, from apps that are displaying ads, it is not possible to report on devices running apps that don't show ads.
- The report is clear is saying it shows data based only on devices running apps that contain their ad control.
- If you're a developer looking to show adverts in your app then the devices of people who don't use apps that contain ads are not as relevant.

For those of you who are particularly interested, here’s an official comment from AdDuplex on this matter:
The accuracy of the stats we gather is obviously affected by a lot of factors. These range from differences in incomes in various countries to accessibility of mobile internet to the effect of bigger apps and games that we have and the audiences that they target. An argument that people with higher end phones are more likely to buy paid apps is probably correct on a logical level, but it doesn’t mean the opposite – people who are likely to buy paid apps are not less likely to use free apps too. People who are “allergic” to ads come in different shapes and forms of personal income and device preferences (not everyone who can afford an expensive phone necessarily buys one). On the other hand the argument could be made that more of the owners of cheaper phones don’t have access to mobile internet (or have a limited/expensive access) making them less likely to see the ads in apps. More people who buy cheaper smartphones necessarily use them as one (never download any apps at all). It is also worth noticing that not all of the apps and games run on 512mb memory devices, potentially skewing the stats in favor of more expensive devices. All-in-all you can have a number of arguments tilting the scales in favor of one theory or the other, but there’s no data to quantify these effects. At the end of the day with data coming from more than 5,000 apps of various types and calibers, I think the results even out quite nicely and, while no statistical report can be 100% accurate, I’m sure we paint a pretty credible picture of the ecosystem as a whole. And I’ve heard off the record confirmation of this from people who’ve seen the “real” numbers.

Wouldn't it be nice to have more?
Yes, from a point of curiosity there are lots of things that it would be useful to know about what devices are in use, where they're used and what apps are used on them.
There are also strategic and tactical decisions that could be better made with this data.

So why aren't reports with this data published?
The main reason is that the only people with the complete data are Microsoft and there are almost certainly competitive and legal reasons not to release all the data. They have released some in the past (the last was in September 2014 but there is a lot they haven't shared with us.

Could anyone else provide more information?
Possibly. It depends on what data you want though.
If you're just after an analysis of all types of devices in use you need analytics from a publisher (or publishers) who has a free app (or apps) used worldwide.
If you want to compare free, ad supported and paid apps then you need aggregated data of all such apps across all territories you're interested in.

There are probably only a handful of publishers who have sufficient data to provide this analysis.
Other advertising networks or analytics providers probably have the information to produce such reports.
Here's the catch though, there is no incentive or commercial interest for any of them to produce and share such a report so I don't expect any of them to do so any time soon. Should anyone do so, I be as keen to read it as anyone.

It may not be everything that everyone would like but the monthly AdDuplex report provides an insight into what devices are being used by the people who use ad supported apps.
It's also the best public information there is.


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