Problems with Mobile Data Collection in China

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420 million Chinese had been on the mobile Internet as of the end of 2012, according to CNNIC. It’s still at early stages for mobile user data analysis, our guests at 2013 Innovation Summit on Big Data found even mobile user data collection is a problem in China.

Cui Xiaobo runs TalkingData, a mobile data solution provider that offers a variety of services to advertisers, developers and clients sitting on big data in China. In the early days he was asked now and then how different the services his company would offer from Google Analytics. Now he concluded the biggest difference must be in data collection.

A client of TalkingData’s, a gaming company, couldn’t recognize 30% of the mobile devices their users’ and believed those were Shanzhai ones. But TalkingData finally found that most of the unrecognized ones were actually high-end handsets. The causes include that lots of Chinese users would install custom ROMs in their phones.

There are three categories of data TalkingData and other Chinese data services are collecting, Mr. Cui concluded. The first is called “basic data” that include specs of devices, Internet connections, Wi-Fi, IP, etc. This category is valuable, but it takes time and effort to sort out.

The second is from apps. With SDKs embedded in apps, data can tell how often users open an app, how much time they spend on average, how active they are, etc. “We did a lot experiments with partner app stores and partners in advertising, most of which didn’t deliver value. This category of data can hardly help directly increase conversion rate. One of the reasons is an app is a closed ecosystem. When a user visits the Web through PC, data collected know all kinds of webpages he or she ever visited, but it’s hard to tell whether a user like one school of cuisine or another with data collected from usage of Dianping (an ratings & reviews app), Cui said. He must refer to native apps. It’s not a problem only with Chinese developers and data services. That’s one of the reasons we see more and more developers everywhere are developing webapps — there are also more and more webapp stores by Chinese services.

The third category is data exchanged with consumer services or bought from them. Yes, it doesn’t happen in most places; for instance, it’s insane to come to the idea of buying data from Google or Apple. But it happens here, so far. But those data, like some from a maps service, are much valued by companies like TalkingData.

image credit: talkingdata