Google is present in 70% of iOS Apps

22 Jan 2023

Using AppScan, we detected that over 70% of iOS apps use Google services. It’s a strange statistic, isn’t it? A bit unsettling, right? We know that Google pays 4 billion per year to be the default search engine on our devices, but we didn’t expect to see it so much in the apps themselves.

Generally, we develop iOS apps with a deep respect for privacy and, in any case, by principle, the system pushes us to be attentive to what we collect, what we ask for and how we ask for it. But we have discovered that many apps use many Google libraries for many things, and this has opened 2 big questions for us:

  • As developers, why do we need these Google libraries?
  • Does Apple not provide equivalent services?

Libraries analysis are still available

From Zero to One

Or should I say it went from 35% to 70%. Initially, we estimated that about 35% of apps were using Firebase. We based that on a very basic analysis of the FirebaseCore , but it was underestimated due to several criteria:

  • the framework name may not be uniform across all versions of the library.
  • the library may be included differently in the app (SPM, Cocoapods, Carthage)
  • packaging may be modified (module change).

In short! By cross-referencing all data, we arrive at 70% of apps.

Google / Firebase librarires

FirebaseInstallations (34% of the Apps on the AppStore)

AppScan - FirebaseInstallations Versions

The Firebase installations service:

  • provides a unique identifier for a Firebase installation
  • provides an auth token for a Firebase installation
  • provides a API to perform GDPR-compliant deletion of a Firebase installation.

FirebaseCrashlytics (26%)

AppScan - FirebaseCrashlytics Versions

Firebase Crashlytics helps you track, prioritize, and fix stability issues that erode app quality.

FirebaseABTesting (17%)

AppScan - FirebaseABTesting Versions

A/B testing is a Firebase service that lets you run experiments across users of your mobile apps. It lets you learn how well one or more changes to your app work with a smaller set of users before you roll out changes to all users. You can run experiments to find the most effective ways to use Firebase Cloud Messaging and Firebase Remote Config in your app.

FirebaseRemoteConfig (17%)

AppScan - FirebaseRemoteConfig Versions

Firebase Remote Config is a cloud service that lets you change the appearance and behavior of your app without requiring users to download an app update.

FirebaseMessaging (14%)

AppScan - FirebaseMessaging Versions

Firebase Messaging is a service that allows you to send data from your server to your users iOS device, and also to receive messages from devices on the same connection. The service handles all aspects of queueing of messages and delivery to the target application running on the target device, and it is completely free.

FirebasePerformance (8%)

AppScan - FirebasePerformance Versions

Firebase Performance library to measure performance of Mobile and Web Apps.

AppScan - FirebaseDynamicLinks Versions

Firebase Dynamic Links are deep links that enhance user experience and increase engagement by retaining context post-install, across platforms.

FirebaseAuth (7%)

AppScan - FirebaseAuth Versions

Firebase Authentication allows you to manage your own account system without any backend code. It supports email and password accounts, as well as several 3rd party authentication mechanisms.

FirebaseFirestore (3%)

AppScan - FirebaseFirestore Versions

Google Cloud Firestore is a NoSQL document database built for automatic scaling, high performance, and ease of application development.

FirebaseAnalytics (2%)

AppScan - FirebaseAnalytics Versions

Firebase Analytics is a free, out-of-the-box analytics solution that inspires actionable insights based on app usage and user engagement.

Apple alternatives

If it's a free product, you are the product.

That’s why we should be a little more wary of using exclusively free services. Doesn’t Apple provide a similar service?

Firebase ProductApple alternative
FirebaseInstallationsNo Apple Alternative
FirebaseCrashlyticsYes, Apple provides a way to get the crashlogs & stacks, it's integrated to Xcode
FirebaseABTestingNo and probably not 100% App Store Review Guidelines
FirebaseRemoteConfigNo and probably not 100% App Store Review Guidelines
FirebaseMessagingYes, we can send pushes using connection to APNS
FirebasePerformancePartially & limited, on debug with Xcode tools
FirebaseDynamicLinks No Apple Alternative
FirebaseAuth No Apple Alternative
FirebaseAuth Yes, we have CloudKit
FirebaseAnalytics No Apple Alternative

Damned! There are several basic products for which Apple does not offer any solution, so it is difficult to imagine doing without certain features.