How to optimize your Android app for emerging markets

Insights from developers experienced in building for billions

When launching an app or game on Google Play, you have the ability to reach audiences across the world. Emerging markets, such as India, Latin America and Southeast Asia, in particular, have huge potential for reach as these regions have some of the fastest growing internet and smartphone penetration. And while the opportunity can be tremendous, you’ll definitely want to do some homework to learn about the local conditions and challenges beforehand.

Looking for a shortcut? The building for billions guidelines are our solution to get you started. The guidelines offer advice on how to optimize your app to perform best with the unique market characteristics. To simplify, the guidelines address five broad categories: connectivity, device capability, data cost, battery consumption, and content. Disclaimer: these guidelines will give you a great start to developing apps for emerging markets, but you should always research further particulars of any market or country you’re targeting as well.

The next billion people coming online will be diverse in every respect: their location, cultural experience, computer expertise, connectivity access, and the kinds of devices they use. Here are three developers who utilized these guidelines to optimize their apps and achieve significant results.

Candy Camera by JP Brothers, Inc.

Candy Camera by JP Brothers, Inc., is a photography app that lets you beautify selfies with a variety of filters, stickers, and editing tools. With the aid of the building for billions guidelines, Candy Camera made three main updates to their app to make it more suited for emerging market populations. Let’s take a look.

  • Data plans in some countries can cost upwards of 10% of a typical user’s monthly income. With this in mind, Candy Camera worked to reduce user data costs by shrinking their apk size by 55%. Since low cost devices often come with little on-device storage, they also made their app so it can be installed to removable storage, freeing up device memory for the user.
  • Over half of all users worldwide will experience your app over a 2G connection. Hence it’s crucial for an app to ensure the user experience for sub-optimal connectivity, or even offline conditions, is still positive. Access to battery charging can also be limited in emerging markets, so being conscious of battery consumption is another very important guideline. Candy Camera optimized for connectivity and battery consumption by queuing requests with the JobScheduler API. The JobScheduler API is designed for scheduling background work and allows the system to batch operations in a way that optimizes the device battery life when scheduling various types of jobs. For example, it may hold actions when a user has poor connectivity, then automatically run them once connection is more stable.
  • Lastly, the team ensured the app’s UI was quick and responsive. which helps compensate for less capable devices. They also improved the UI’s touch feedback to reduce perceived latency. These combined updates led to a 47% increase in daily installs in India and helped increase their app rating from 4.4 to 4.6.

VideoShow by EnjoyMobi Video Editor Studio

VideoShow by EnjoyMobi Video Editor Studio is a video editing and movie making app with over 120 million users. After making their app better suited for emerging markets, new user growth increased by more than 20% in South America and over 50% in India. Below are examples of what they did.

  • VideoShow focused on device capability, making sure their app supports an increasing variety of Android platform versions and device specifications. To do this, they made their app support screens of various sizes and resolutions by replacing all pixel units (px) in the layout with density-independent pixels (dp). This change eliminates the problem of having a layout being shown in different device sizes when the screens have different pixel densities. Defining layouts with dp ensures that the physical size of your user interface is consistent regardless of device.
  • To reduce their overall apk size, VideoShow made two major changes. First, they unbundled components of their app such as themes, fonts, and special effects. This gives users more control of their data allowing them to download the components they want, when they want them. Second, they reduced their code size by removing large sized libraries from the apk that had minimal impact on the user.
India user installs grew by over 50% after implementing building for billions changes

365scores by 365Scores

365scores by 365Scores is a sports app offering completely customizable live score updates, news, videos highlights, and more. As an information rich app, 365Scores knows the importance of having a great user interface that allows users to quickly find the right content. To get their app in better shape for emerging markets, the team focused on optimizing for connectivity and data usage.

  • User perception of an app’s performance is in large part formed by responsiveness. 365Scores focused on improving its user interface to make sure the app responds quickly, even on low-cost devices. To start, they ensured all touchable elements in the main views have touch feedback. Next, they used the tools to detect overdraw, or UI windows requiring excessive processing time, that posed the risk of causing latency and a poor user experience. Android devices refresh the screen at 60 frames per second (fps). If frames require long rendering time, they may get dropped or cause stuttering. Once these windows were identified, 365Scores enhanced their animations to lessen the burden on device CPUs and GPUs resulting in a smoother running app experience.
Before and after screenshots. Red lines reaching above the horizontal green line represent dropped frames. The screenshot on the right shows a significant decrease in dropped frames after the animations were optimized.
  • 365Scores also made great improvement in reducing data cost for its users. They were able to reduce their apk size by over 40%. Through these combined efforts, the app’s monthly installs have seen significant growth across countries including Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Columbia. In India alone, they’ve seen a 4x lift in monthly installs since only Jan 2017.

While I only highlighted three apps making efforts to get in shape for emerging market audiences, several others are seeing similar successes. Reach these growing audiences coming online through the tips and best practices within the building for billions guidelines. I’d also love to hear your success stories in using any of these strategies to increase your app’s performance in emerging markets. Let me know in the comments below.