How to drive engagement, monetization for Android tablets

Applications built with Android tablet users in mind are driving engagement, better monetization and more downloads for developers.  

While much of the focus in the tablet space is on the iPhone, there are a growing number of Android tablets in play, such as the new Nexus 7 tablet. Developers who want to insure they are delivering a strong mobile experience across devices and create optimized apps for Android tablet users are finding meaningful results.

"The benefits of building an app that works great on tablets is evident in the experiences of, Tiny Co, and Instapaper who reported increased user engagement, better monetization, and more downloads from tablet users,? said Reto Meier, Android developer relations tech lead, in a recent blog post.

Longer sessions
Google, Mountain View, CA, showcased several recently success stories from developers who created tablet apps optimized for Android as well as best practices on its blog and site for Android developers. 

For example, when Intuit expanded its mobile offering for the personal finance service with a version optimized for Android tablets, it decided to use the extra real estate on tablets to provide a more immersive experience rather than simply showing an enlarged version.

The end result brings a number of features to Android tablets that are not available on phones to provide additional tools and information for helping users to manage their financial information. For example, users can see a chart of their spending by category or over time.

The company reports that a larger percentage of tablet usage is happening in the evening and that the sessions are longer compared to smartphone use. Users are looking at historical trends, re-categorizing transactions, analyzing the data and setting financial goals for the future.

Additionally, customer budget operations are seven times higher on Android tablets than they are on phones and 50 percent more Android tablet users have Mint sessions of five minutes or longer than they do on phones.

Extra screen space
Intuit?s example points to the results that developers can see when they develop for Android tablets, making sure the user interface is taking full advantage of the extra screen area.

Tablet screens provide significantly more screen real estate than phones.

In some cases, developers are looking to take an app that was developed for handsets and moving it to tablets. For seven-inch tablets, all that may need to be done is adjusting the layout, fonts and spacing.

However, for larger tablets, it may be necessary to redesign part of the user interface so the content does not look stretched out.  Developers should also consider putting in additional content and rearranging existing content, for example by using multi-pane layouts to make it easier for users to navigate.

Lines of text should not be excessively long on larger screen tablets. Google recommends shooting for between 50 and 75 characters per line, with the maximum length at 100 characters per line. Additionally, ListViews and menus should not use the full screen width.

Other tips include adjusting the position of the user interface controls so they are easily accessible to users, such as toward the sides when in landscape orientation.

Immersive experiences
In another example, app developer TinyCo, which makes the game Tiny Monsters, made Android one of its primary launch platforms. As a result, it saw Android tablet downloads more than triple in six months.

The company also reports that the average revenue per paying user and average revenue per user are both about 35 percent higher for tablet users than on phones. The company attributes this to the fact that its games are more immersive on tablets.

This example points to the need to test tablet apps to ensure they are delivering quality experiences across several core areas for all the devices and form factors that the app is targeting.

Instapaper, an app for saving Web content to read later, created an Android tablet that launched at the beginning of the summer, as the Nexus 7 and other Android tablets hit the market.

The app's developer Mobelux saw a 600 percent jump in downloads of its app on Google Play on the day that pre-order of the Nexus 7 started being accepted. Now, Android tablets account for 50 percent of their installed based.

Other tips for creating Android tablet apps include using icons and other assets that are designed for tablet screens, adjusting the size of home screen widgets for tablet screens, offer the same set of features on tablets as an app does on handsets and be careful not to require hardware features that might not be available on tablets.

?We?ve found that phone usage is indicative of a customer?s regular financial check-in, while tablet usage points towards more analysis and interaction with that customer?s personal financial data,? Ken Sun, group product manager for Mint at Intuit, on the Android developer site.

?This is the sort of immersive engagement experience we were looking for; the tablet and phone apps serve as great complements to each other,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York