How to Correctly Form User-Agents for Mobile Apps

Native apps, Mobile apps, or just apps. We call them different things and we use them all the time. User-Agents for Mobile AppsFrom a business perspective, apps complement mobile and desktop sites. They are natural extension of an online strategy. Because of this, it’s important to take the necessary steps to make sure the native apps, and their versions, are identifiable. This is critical both from an analytics perspective as well as from a devops or support perspective. Native apps have much in common with the web. Apps often use the same online resources as the web site like RESTful APIs, images or videos. Because these resources are shared, it is very important to correctly form User-Agents for mobile apps to identify who is using the resources. Is the user on the Android app or iOS app? Which version of the app? Which OS version? And so on.

There are two kinds of mobile apps: 1) fully native apps, and 2) webview-based hybrid apps.  In this post, we will focus on fully native apps where HTTP requests are sent by the native code.

If you are interested in webview-based hybrid apps where a browser window is wrapped in a native shell, then check out this other post on User-Agent strings for hybrid webview apps.

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Correctly Form User-Agents for Webview Apps

User-Agents for WebviewHybrid webview apps are a popular and cost efficient way to distribute online properties through app stores. A hybrid app is a native application with all the bells and whistles, but some part and sometimes even all functionality is developed using HTML, CSS ,and JavaScript and rendered by a webview component. This is why the hybrid app is also called a “webview app”. You can think of the webview component inside the app as a browser window. Inside the browser window, a webpage or web app is rendered. This page or app is communicating with a server on the internet, just like a web browser. We know how important the User-Agent string is for device detection in web browsing, and correctly formed User-Agents for Webview Apps is just as important for effective browsing, analytics, and targeting.

This article will teach you how to steer away from the generic defaults and correctly form a meaningful User-Agent for hybrid webview apps on mobile devices running the most popular platforms. If your app does not use webviews , then please read this post to learn how to structure User-Agents for native mobile apps.

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