Size matters: How your app size is costing you customers

2.6 million apps in the Google Play store today — no wonder convincing a user to install your app has never been more difficult. As if it wasn’t difficult enough already, plenty of your users have seen this dialogue — probably multiple times — as well:

Have you ever pondered the consequences of this dialogue? Probably not as much as you should, and let me tell you why!

Let’s assume that you have a retail store and you ship an app to make the shopping experience smoother and quicker. You’ve added AR filters and applied Machine Learning to figure out your users preferences and to tailor the experience. In other words, you’ve made a freakin’ awesome shopping app! Wow! It even supports Android 4.4 and 8 different languages. Good for you!

Now, how many people (especially from those that have a problem with the device storage space) do you think that they are going to download it if they see the following message?

So, have you already started to rethink your strategy? Good, because I got even worse news for you.

“more than 337 million smartphone users with limited data plans”

Unlimited internet access is not for everybody

One thing we took for granted for too long, was an unlimited internet connection. And before you argue this with replies like “my app works offline”, “we use cache” and all this, I’m not talking about losing connection for a few minutes in the subway. I’m talking about markets like India, that have more than 337 million smartphone users with limited data plans. If you believe that India’s market is not your target market and you don’t care, just check that number again; that number alone is greater than the last census count for the entire United States.

If you’re still not sold, consider another number: 1.32 billion of international tourist arrivals worldwide just in 2017. This number is expected to grow by 5% for 2018 [World Tourism Organization and statista.com]. And they don’t always have WiFi available. In fact, as a European travelling regularly to the US, a lot of times I find myself frustrated about the lack of WiFi (In the Netherlands there’s free WiFi in pretty much every store and in many cities there’s one from the municipality). Even though it gets easier to hop on WiFi year by year, it’s still problematic and downloading a big app while on roaming is a no-go for me.

Conversion numbers

Google’s Sam Tolomei wrote an interesting article about how this lack of unlimited internet access combined with the size of Play Store downloads translates into negative conversion rates. The numbers vary for global regions and app store categories, but in short the results he found boil down to this:

“We found that the download completion rate of an app with an APK size of around 10MB will be ~30% higher than an app with an APK size of 100MB”

Now that’s an impressive number. If your Awesome Shopping App™ is of Amazonian proportions, you can gain millions by reducing the size of your app.

Android dev Summit: Bundling an App in an Instant

How it worked vs. how it works

Alright, back to business and to your Awesome Shopping App™. How can you make more people download your massive APK from Google Play? The answer is very simple: you can’t! This is where app bundles come to save the day. App bundles are just a different way to structure and release your app. There are 3 reasons why your shopping app APK is so massive:

  1. When the user installs an app, the APK contains all the resources for every screen density even though the user is never going to use them.
  2. The same goes for the language specific resources; from text to images that are only for French, Chinese people will have to download them as well even if the only word they know is “merci.”
  3. The APK contains all the fancy features features. Although this is not always a problem, if you have a feature like an AR experience which is very big and not a core functionality of your app, it can bump up the APK size considerably.

With App Bundles, Google Play will create different APKs depending on the device and the language settings your users have. If a feature is too big, you can also allow your users to choose if they want to download it during installation or on demand. And worry not, it’s still going to be as easy to discover as in the current version since the UI won’t have to change.

The benefits for your app and your users

Since app bundles can be downloaded, they can also be deleted without the notice of the user, when they aren’t used often. The benefits of a small APK don’t stop only for the users that care about the device storage or the internet connection.

I’ll talk from experience, and it has happened numerous times, that I downloaded an app but it took too long so I forgot about it. Next time I opened my phone, I saw the notification but I was occupied with something else and I ended up deleting it with never checking it out at the end.

Your app might also end up more stable since your developers will be “forced” into a cleaner architecture: no more spaghetti code as some of your features would have to function as add-on modules or even as a standalone app (*hint hint* instant apps).

Instant apps

Instant apps are the most instant way to gain your users attention and, hopefully, loyalty. They are parts of your app that are so compact that they can be made available to the users without requiring an installation through the Play store. From the user’s perspective, it’s a “try me now button”, that instantly launches the app straight from the Google results page. User can interact with it as if it was an installed app but once they close it, *poof!*, it’s uninstalled again. Within that “instant app” you can show a friendly nudge to download the full app, which will be a completely seamless experience.

Dynamic feature delivery

So I mentioned above that if some of your features are sizeable, you should give your users the option to download them on demand instead of on installation. If the app is small enough, it will start downloading without even requiring the user’s confirmation. Once installed, the user can instantly start using it without restarting the app.

Android dev Summit: Bundling an App in an Instant

Conclusion

We’ve had a hard time finding a downside to downsizing your apps. Yes, depending on the nature of your app (and the quality of your architecture) it will be a bit more work to optimise your app; but simply using App Bundles can be done by the flip of a switch and requires no adjustments to your code at all.


If you want to know more, these are the starting points to using Instant Apps, Dynamic Delivery and App Bundles. We’d love to hear your experience with app sizes in the comments!

Better yet, get in touch with us. We’d love to talk tech and see how we can boost your app downloads and retention! Connect with Emiel for our Dutch office (emiel@pixplicity.com) or Eric for our New York office (eric@pixplicity.com).