New World for Mobile App Analytics 1: Native vs hybrid

, Posted by Adrian Kingwell in Blog, Phil's posts, Web Analytics

This is a four-part blog series on how to implement Google app analytics. Phil Craig shows us how to choose the right analytics platform, and how to implement Firebase and Google Tag Manager, debug it and align it with the platform.

In Part 1, Phil looks at the differences between native and hybrid apps.

It’s amazing how app analytics isn’t quite at the forefront of the technical analyst’s brain. Web designers and UX experts have been touting a mobile-first design philosophy for years, so how is that we analysts don’t think mobile-first?

Before I begin, it is imperative that you play the New World Symphony by Dvořák. There are four parts to this blog – I will give you a new song with each one, to keep you motivated and thinking of new worlds to conquer. 

Ahhhh, isn’t that nice? Now, let the journey begin…

In my recent swashbuckling journey into mobile tag management/app analytics, I encountered stormy seas, pirates and monsters of the deep. In the end, I landed on the shores of the New World with a smile, a feeling of achievement and some seaweed stuck in my beard (from Itsu, I think).

Because I’m such a splendid chap and so you don’t end up in the same situation, I bring you the highlights of my journey. In the process, I will warn you of the areas to avoid and lessons learned, so you can have a nice easy cruise and perhaps a glass of bubbly to settle the nerves… just stay away from the buffet.

This will not be an endless list comparing tools. More of a “guide to avoid sinking”.

Step 1: Plan your route

First off, you don’t want to head out of the port in completely the wrong direction, do you? So, ask yourself this: are we tagging a native app or a hybrid app?

What’s the difference?

  • A native app tends to have a spear and wants to eat you for a spot of light brunch. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. No, a native app is an application that is written for a specific platform i.e. Android or iOS. All the main functionality sits within the app – data might flow back and forth with the server.
  • A hybrid app is basically a customised mini-browser that sits on your phone and displays some mobile-optimised HTML pages. You download it from App Store the same way, but it doesn’t do a lot apart from display pages. 

To the end user, the two don’t look very different.

The key point for us here is that a hybrid app’s analytics can be set up exactly the way you would do a standard Google Analytics implementation project… Tags on pages. Easy.

Native apps however will need a completely different implementation approach. So just a small point. There might be a need for a data layer in this circumstance. You will need the app developer to add the SDK to the app build project. From that point, you will need to create data layer ‘events’ to allow the link between the app and Google Tag Manager (GTM) and then on to Google Analytics (GA) for data collection.

If you don’t have a clue if the app is native or hybrid, ask the app developer. If they don’t have a clue, they might have lied on their CV.

This is the decision tree…


That’s part of it out of the way and hopefully you have a nice tail wind guiding you in the right direction. Or maybe it was something you ate in the buffet – I told you to avoid it.

Part 2 will be here next week…