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Hybrid Mobile Apps in the Google Play Store: An Exploratory Investigation

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1st June 2015. Stefano Ruberto's presentation at MobileSoft 2015 (http://mobilesoftconf.org) about our study on hybrid mobile Apps in the Google Play Store. MobileSoft is the ACM International Conference on Mobile Software Engineering and Systems, and it is sponsored by ACM SIGSOFT.

Accompanying paper: http://www.ivanomalavolta.com/files/papers/MobileSoft_2015.pdf

Abstract:
One of the most intriguing challenges in mobile apps development is its fragmentation with respect to mobile platforms (e.g., Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone). Large companies like IBM and Adobe and a growing community of developers advocate hybrid mobile apps development as a possible solution to mobile platforms fragmentation. Hybrid mobile apps are consistent across platforms and built on web standards. How hybrid apps are performing in production settings is still highly debated, with limited objective evidence.
In this paper, we present the first empirical investigation into mobile hybrid apps involving a large number of mobile apps. Our goal is exploratory and we aim at identifying, analysing, and understanding the traits and distinctions of publicly available hybrid mobile apps within their real-life context. The study has been conducted by mining 11,917 free apps and their related metadata from the Google Play Store, and analyzing them from both a technical and end users’ perception perspective.

Published in: Technology

Hybrid Mobile Apps in the Google Play Store: An Exploratory Investigation

  1. 1. Hybrid Mobile Apps in the Google Play Store: an Exploratory Investigation I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni GSSI June 1, 2015 I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 1 / 21
  2. 2. Presentation structure 1 Context: Hybrid Mobile Apps Technologies Issues 2 Study Design Goals Research questions Objects and Variables Data Extraction 3 Findings 4 Conclusion and Future works Perceived Values Conclusion I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 2 / 21
  3. 3. Context: Hybrid Mobile Apps Technologies Hybrid Mobile Apps Developments technologies • a possible solution to mobile platforms fragmentation • consistent across platforms • develop using standard web technologies: HTML5 CSS JAVASCRIPT • on top of hybrid development framework I providing a native wrapper I a generic JavaScript API that bridges all the service requests to the corresponding platform API I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 3 / 21
  4. 4. Context: Hybrid Mobile Apps Issues Pros and Cons Pros • cross-platform portability • reuse of existing knowledge of web developers • simpler and less expensive development processes Cons • restricted access to hardware features • variations on user experience • decrease in performance Strong debate about benefits and drawbacks Observation As of today, limited empirical investigations have been performed on hybrid mobile apps I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 4 / 21
  5. 5. Study Design Goals Research Goals To analyse hybrid mobile apps • in their actual context of use • from both the developers’ and end users’ viewpoints • with a reproducible empirical strategy I well-defined empirical protocol I dataset comprising 11,917 apps and 3,041,315 user ratings I dedicated analysis tool (available online) 1 1 https://github.com/GabMar/ApkCategoryChecker I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 5 / 21
  6. 6. Study Design Research questions Research questions RQ1 Are hybrid mobile apps distributed in the Google Play Store? RQ2 What are the most used hybrid development frameworks for developing hybrid mobile apps? RQ3 What are the most used 3rd-party web libraries for developing hybrid mobile apps? RQ4 How are hybrid mobile apps integrated to the Android platform and other installed apps? RQ5 What is the di↵erence in the user perceived value between hybrid and native mobile apps? I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 6 / 21
  7. 7. Study Design Objects and Variables Objects and Variables Objects 11,917 free Android apps from the Google Play Store • large number of available apps • easy to extract relevant information from app binaries Reference set of hybrid development frameworks e.g., Apache Cordova, Appcelerator Titanium, etc. Publicly available reference list on Wikipedia2 in order to • have a starting point as complete and up to date as possible • make our study replicable 2 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplephoneweb-based_application_framework I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 7 / 21
  8. 8. Study Design Objects and Variables Objects and Variables Variables (1) type identify whether the mobile app is hybrid or native.(RQ1) frameworkName used hybrid development framework (e.g. Apache Cordova) (RQ2) libraries identify the used specific 3rd-party web libraries (RQ3) I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 8 / 21
  9. 9. Study Design Data Extraction Objects and Variables Variables (2) permissions Identify the permissions requested by the app (RQ4) rating The average rating provided by the users(RQ5) reviewsCount Number of reviewsa (RQ5) a High-quality mobile apps tend to get more reviews in its app lifecycle [DK13] I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 9 / 21
  10. 10. Study Design Data Extraction Data Extraction The extraction process I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 10 / 21
  11. 11. Study Design Data Extraction Data Extraction Extraction - phases 1 and 2 Total Finance 463 Medical 490 Transportation 438 Travel&Local 484 Health&Fitness 352 Libraries&Demo 418 Business 488 Lifestyle 497 Social 491 Sports 497 Shopping 487 Education 493 Book&References 472 Total Communication 487 Entertainment 487 News&Magazines 491 Comics 465 Weather 495 Media&Video 483 Productivity 495 Photography 494 Music&Audio 477 Tools 489 Game 492 Personalization 493 ALL 11,917 Replication package with complete apps list downloadable from: http://cs.gssi.infn.it/hybrid_googleplay_analysis I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 11 / 21
  12. 12. Study Design Data Extraction Data Extraction Extraction - phase 3 Open source tool to analyse the APK and extract: type, frameworkName, libraries, permissions and size. Example: identify Apache Cordova The tool checks if the APK contains: • an XML file in the path /res/xml/config.xml • string “org.apache.cordova” in that XML • a Java class called CordovaActivity. Tool publicly available at https://github.com/GabMar/ApkCategoryChecker I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 12 / 21
  13. 13. Findings Findings - RQ1 Presence in the Google Play Store Finding 3.73 % hybrid mobile apps (445 over 11917) • significantly uncommon among the top-500 apps within 25 Google Play categories • hybrid apps are infrequent in categories requiring closer interaction with the Android platform and hardware: Photography, Music, Audio, Tools, Game and Personalization Note Clear indicator of a future area of work for developers and vendors of hybrid development frameworks I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 13 / 21
  14. 14. Findings Findings - RQ2 Used hybrid development frameworks Finding Clear winners: Apache Cordova (258) and Appcelerator Titanium (116) • other frameworks are less used • in line with informal claims in other research papers [MCM+13, OT12, CSS12] Note Appcelerator Titanium has a spike in the Finance category. It has specific support for enterprise-level authentication and authorization I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 14 / 21
  15. 15. Findings Findings - RQ3 Third-party web libraries for hybrid mobile apps # Web library #apps # Web library #apps 1 jQuery 267 11 Underscore 29 2 jQuery Mobile 106 12 Backbone 27 3 Json2 99 13 Jasmine 27 4 Ionic 58 14 Lo-Dash 21 5 AngularJS 55 15 RequireJS 21 6 Google Analytics 38 16 Bootstrap 20 7 Fastclick 35 17 Mobiscroll 20 8 jQuery UI 32 18 Crypto-js 16 9 Moment.js 32 19 Datejs 15 10 Facebook SDK 30 20 TweenJS 14 I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 15 / 21
  16. 16. Findings Findings - RQ3 ...continue Note • 16 out of those 20 top used libraries are not specific to mobile browsers. Developers reuse and build on JavaScript frameworks already existing in the desktop web area • Among the top-20 libraries there are two MVC JavaScript frameworks, namely AngularJS and Backbone I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 16 / 21
  17. 17. Findings Findings - RQ4 Integration to the Android platform and other apps Finding hybrid mobile apps are generally in line with native mobile apps • 17 out of the top 20 permissions are requested to the Android platform, whereas the remaining 3 permissions are requested to Google services I access the Internet and the network connection state I write to an external storage drive (e.g. an SD card) I geographic position of the user I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 17 / 21
  18. 18. Findings Findings - RQ5 Perceived value Finding The average of end user ratings is: for hybrid 3.75 and for native 3.35 Finding Native apps have been reviewed in average 6.5 times more than hybrid mobile apps • Hybrid and native mobile apps are performing equally with respect to end users’ star-rating across all categories. • We can interpret the review count disparity as an indication of the fact that hybrid mobile apps are neither perceived as too satisfying nor dissatisfying . (see [HZP09]) I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 18 / 21
  19. 19. ConclusionandFutureworksPerceivedValues Futureworks PerceivedValues Empiricalstudyfocussingontheenduserperceptionofhybridvsnative mobileapps •intheperceivedperformance •intheperceivedbugginess •intheinitialdownloadoverhead(appsize) Empiricalstudyinvestigatinghowhybridmobileappsperformacross di↵erentplatforms Surveytargetinghybridappdevelopers •focusonpractitioners’perceivedstrengths,limitationsandneeds I.Malavolta,S.Ruberto,T.Soru,V.TerragniHybridMobileAppsJune1,201519/21
  20. 20. Conclusion and Future works Conclusion Conclusion I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 20 / 21
  21. 21. Conclusion and Future works Conclusion [CSS12] Luis Corral, Alberto Sillitti, and Giancarlo Succi. Mobile multiplatform development: An experiment for performance analysis. Procedia Computer Science, 10:736–743, 2012. [DK13] Diya Datta and Sangaralingam Kajanan. Do app launch times impact their subsequent commercial success? an analytical approach. In Cloud Computing and Big Data (CloudCom-Asia), 2013 International Conference on, pages 205–210. IEEE, 2013. [HZP09] Nan Hu, Jie Zhang, and Paul A Pavlou. Overcoming the j-shaped distribution of product reviews. Communications of the ACM, 52(10):144–147, 2009. [MCM+ 13] Emiliano Masi, Giovanni Cantone, Manuel Mastrofini, Giuseppe Calavaro, and Paolo Subiaco. Mobile apps development: A framework for technology decision making. In Mobile Computing, Applications, and Services, pages 64–79. Springer, 2013. [OT12] Julian Ohrt and Volker Turau. Cross-platform development tools for smartphone applications. Computer, (9):72–79, 2012. I.Malavolta, S.Ruberto, T.Soru, V.Terragni Hybrid Mobile Apps June 1, 2015 21 / 21

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