If you’re an Android user, you’ve probably had a terrible experience with shovelware — the “helpful” apps manufacturers and carriers add to your phone without asking.
Typically, these apps suck up precious storage space. Even worse — like a free U2 album — they’re universally disliked and can’t be deleted. And as far as mobile experiences go, they set the customer off on the wrong foot — creating negative triggers that bite into customer loyalty.
Today, after an extended period in stealth mode, IronSource launches Aura, a new customization platform that promises not only to bring an end to this kind of practice but also to deliver personalized app and device recommendations that could help consumers make better, more positive use of their devices for longer.
The company has already secured deals with over 30 device manufacturers and tier-one carriers around the world, including the likes of HTC and ASUS. In fact, Aura is expected to appear on more than 100 million devices worldwide this year — smartphones that use either Android and Windows can use Aura.
Ending shovelware is just part of the story, so what else can Aura do, and why is it so important?
“Aura consists of two main products,” Giancarlo Fasolo, EVP of sales and marketing at IronSource Enterprise Solutions told me. “the ‘out-of-box experience’ that transforms the archaic, preloaded app model, and ‘smart notifications’ that recommend content at the time the user needs it.”
When a user opens their brand-new, shiny Android device and switches it on for the first time, Aura will provide a personalized experience.
“A lot of folks in the industry preload a bunch of apps, but often this frustrates the user, as they can’t get rid of them,” Fasolo said. “We create an out-of-box experience that allows users to preview selections of apps they’ll be interested in. Then, those apps are installed.”
These app recommendations are driven through IronSource’s partnerships with advertisers, OEMs, and carriers. Using interest and demographic data, as well as advertiser preferences, Aura can provide users with personalized app recommendations from brand-safe apps.
Once the phone is set up the way the user wants it, the system works in the background to provide smart notifications that trigger based on real-life scenarios.
“For example, if a consumer is running low on memory, and we also know they’re not using a photo backup service (Google Photos, Dropbox, etc.), we can notify them and promote a solution,” Fasolo said. “We can then walk the user through how to install the solution and use it.”
That’s a big step forward for proactive support, solving problems such as low memory, poor battery life, and location changes. Battery life can often be linked to having too many apps installed, and so Aura can offer smart suggestions as to which apps haven’t been used in a long time, and provide a one-click uninstall.
“Let’s say you change your location from New York to Las Vegas,” Fasolo said. “We can push notifications to recommend local apps so that you can book restaurant tables, find great local experiences, and more.”
Aura’s smart notifications are incredibly rich. Instead of an on-line notification, users see a card that offers high levels of information and context, helping drive action and create a positive experience.
So is Aura the answer to shovelware?
“Response to Aura has been mostly positive,” Fasolo said. “I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place where manufacturers won’t put their brand apps on a device, but we see our role as dramatically reducing the shovelware and promoting the brand’s apps as part of the onboarding process.”
That, along with Aura’s ability to improve device upkeep and offer useful notifications should, in theory, increase customer satisfaction. The downside for manufacturers is that people may keep their phones for longer, but if the experience helps create a stronger emotional bond between the brand or carrier and the user, at least it should result in more repeat business.
And that makes sense financially. While the smartphone market is booming, margins are becoming increasingly slimmer. IronSource claims that initial deployments of Aura show it adding $3 to $5 per device in additional lifetime value for its partners.
Aura launches today for manufacturers, OEMs, and carriers in Italy, Spain, Russia, Japan, U.S., Canada, China, Nigeria, Brazil, Spain, Germany, U.K., Caribbean, and Taiwan. Further details are available from the IronSource website.