App recommendation engines are getting booted from Apple’s app store because they suck, according to a new player in the app-finding business. But Hooked Media has come up with an entirely new take on app recommendation that has two unique qualities.
One, it doesn’t suck. And two, it can’t be rejected by Apple.
“Obviously, app discovery is a problem on iOS and Android,” Hooked Media CEO Prita Uppal told me, thinking of the hundreds of thousands of apps on both platforms. “The key problem from Apple’s perspective was that no one was solving the problem … they were just looking at opportunities to make money.”
That’s why Hooked Media chose to avoid simply relying on manual curation or social discovery, which is what most app recommendation engines use. Instead, Uppal says, Hooked Media generates app recommendations for its users based on 46 independent factors, including time of day, day of the week, what apps you’ve installed, which you’re deleting, the sequence in which you use them, your demographic factors, and yes, some social factors as well.
A 30 percent uptick in installs based on Hooked Media recommendations — and 33 percent more play time on games downloaded in response to a recommendation.
And most of that is without the typical app-recommendation app that shows you the free games, highlighted apps, and deals of the day. Because instead of just being an app, Hooked Media provides an in-app app recommendation service that helps mobile developers monetize and get distribution.
In other words, a large part of Hooked Media’s app recommendations happen in other apps: In that moment when you’ve just finished a level or played a game, the app flashes up suggestions of other apps to download. These aren’t just paid ads, they’re personalized recommendations.
“We’ve built a partnership on both platforms,” Uppal says. “We’re helping companies that are already doing this do it better, smarter, and more personal … and increasing conversion rates over 20 percent.”
In other words, because the app suggestions are more targeted, users who see them are more likely to download and use them — and app developers are more likely to be able to monetize their app via other developers’ marketing incentives.
“The minute you add that predictive rating for users, it totally transforms it from being an ad unit to something that’s personal to me, which totally changes that experience,” said Uppal.
It also changes the definition of an app recommendation engine from an app to a cross-platform service that developers can embed in their own apps via an API. That makes it virtually impossible for Apple to take action against Hooked Media, because it’s in thousands of apps — not just an easily isolated one.
Hooked Media, which has been making online game recommendation engines for years, spent a dedicated two and a half years building the technology behind the recommendations for mobile apps. That’s partly due to the many, many factors in Hooked’s complex algorithm, and partly due to the need to provide customized recommendations based on huge numbers of criteria in literally milliseconds.
The service won 25 million users in beta on Android, and an app recommendation app that it built — partially as a proof of concept — was promoted by Google twice. That’s a far cry from Apple, which has been busy kicking app suggestion apps out of the store.
And while there’s good opportunity on iOS, which Hooked Media is happy to serve via its API, Android is where there’s a “bigger opportunity,” according to Uppal.
That’s not really due to the fact that Android has more users and now has or shortly will have more apps. Rather, it’s due to the fact that the “app store” functionality is fractured on Android, with more than 200 Android app stores in existence, according to Hooked Media.
“The app discovery problem becomes even more challenging on Android — users don’t even know where to go,” Uppal said. “In the U.S., Google Play is definitely dominant, but outside the U.S., Google Play is very small.”
In Korea, Uppal told me, Google Play is only used by a fraction of Android smartphone owners. (That seems a little extreme, given the fact that Korea ranks number two in the country list for downloads on Google Play.) And, she pointed out, Verizon is soon coming out with its own store. Hooked Media, however, will seamlessly find the right app store to download the right app, dynamically.
The core point?
Hooked Media has built a platform, app store, and app agnostic app recommendation engine. It’s one that can’t be banned by Apple. And it’s one that benefits developers who are seeking monetization as well as those who are seeking distribution.