Massive Update of Google's Firebase: What's New for App Developers

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19 May 2016
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6 min
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Sergey L.
Copywriter

A while back when Google acquired cloud hosted database company Firebase, experts called it a smart acquisition. But have they expected how successful and potentially productive it would be? After 18 month since Firebase joint Google, its developers community has experienced a fourfold growth worldwide. The number of active developers goes beyond 470,000.

Admittedly, may Google pardon me, this was slightly due to Facebook. Its unexpected move of shutting down Parse -- Facebook's MBaaS platform, made Parse 'inhabitants' rapidly look for alternatives. Firebase is among the solutions for Parse 'refugees'. However, at the same time Firebase has a lot to offer itself, so it would be so unfair to take all the credit to Facebook.

Anyway, it doesn't matter why Firebase is gaining all the more admirers, that is just the point. And this year's Google's keynote has brought a huge update to Firebase application building platform. Although, it has already provided developers with a platform and SDK for mobile apps development, now it has received compelling new features and upgrades of existing functionality.

google io 2016

Before we delve into new features, let's take a look at what Firebase has offered before. Having similar to Facebook's Parse functionality, developers had a real-time database system, user authentication and hosting tools at their service. Now, Google takes these features and boosts them up, making mobile application development experience more straightforward.

What does it mean? According to Google, newly introduced functionality will help build apps faster, improve the quality, engage more users, and even monetize the application. By the way, it's not just about Android apps, but also iOS and Web ones. So, it's time to meet these exciting features.

Android, iOS and Web Apps Creating: New Firebase Development Tools

Along with continuous investing in Firebase core services, Google adds to the set of following backend development tools.

The push service that facilitates messaging between mobile apps and the server -- Google Cloud Messaging joins forces with Firebase platform. As a result, we receive Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) that enables messaging functionality in mobile and web apps. The good news is that the FCM service, like its 'predecessor' is completely free of charge.

Firebase Storage is going to be irreplaceable for storing 'heavy' files, such as photos, videos, and other. Using Firebase Remote Config, it's easy to customize your application literally on the fly. Forget about publishing a new version after each minor update.

What is Firebase Analytics?

We all know Google Analytics, don't we? It's cool. But it's perfectly customized to websites. Firebase Analytics was specially designed for mobile apps and what's even more pleasing, it's a free and limitless analytics solution for everyone.

Using Firebase Analytics you get a comprehensive insight into what users are doing within your app and even how your marketing and promotion campaigns are behaving. The metrics Firebase Analytics provides are truly user and event-centric.

You can also define the groups of users with similar traits and attributes applying the feature known as Audiences. You can analyse user's behavior and then access those audience segments from all available Firebase features. What's more, you can export received data to any other service, like Google BigQuery, for example, to trace the trends.

Implementing Firebase Analytics requires just a few lines of code to the app.

firebase new functionality

Quality Assurance Features: Test Lab and Crash Reporting

Do you remember Cloud Test Lab that was announced at Google I/O 2015? Nothing new, except for it now grows into Firebase Test Lab for Android. Developers usually need it to test their mobile applications on real devices. So, from now on the access to it is gained right through the Firebase developer console.

As for Crash Reporting, you'll surely like this feature as you want to know about the problems with your app right away. From now on you have this opportunity. You get actionable reports, which serve for diagnosing and fixing issues in Android and iOS applications after they have been delivered. The great thing about it is that it cooperates with Audiences feature (you remember it, right?) and Firebase Analytics. Therefore, you can not only see if the problem takes place on a particular device to prevent it in future but also discover the affect this problem has caused.

Growth Possibilities

I'm sure you know that it's never enough to build an application and launch it. To grow and engage your users, Firebase has shipped five powerful engaging features.

  • Firebase Notifications. Get prepared to deliver push notifications to your users via the Notification console without the necessity to write code lines. This feature is suitable for user re-engaging, marketing campaigns and even targeting (sending targeted messages to Audiences). 
  • Firebase Dynamic Links. Using these feature, you set the rules for where users will go -- directly to the app if it's installed on the device or to Play Store app page. 
  • Firebase Invites is a smooth way to share referral codes with the content using SMS or email. 
  • Firebase App Indexing. All application content is delivered to Google Search. 
  • AdWords -- from now on the context advertising service created by Google is unified with Firebase. 

And finally... Monetization Solutions

Firebase took care of your revenue and business growth as well. With Firebase SDK integrated with your app, you have an opportunity to use AdMob ad formats. This means you receive access to an advertising platform used by more than 1 million apps.

How to manage all these innovations?

Well, Google kindly provided developers with a newly created console to manage applications. The console is easy to use and integrates with Google services, such as Google Cloud or Google Play. What's more, Firebase has changed its website address to firebase.google.com.

firebase analytics

Google has also introduced a clear tiered pricing structure:

  • free plan for essential features
  • fixed-rate model, which is suitable for startups 
  • pay-as-you-go model for larger requirements

So, what will you pay for? Well according to the Firebase team and everything said above, for a great developer experience provided through 'easy-to-use APIs, intuitive interfaces, comprehensive documentation, and tight integrations'.

That was just a brief roundup of new Firebase features announced by Google at its annual event Google I/O 2016.

Of course, such innovations are the hot-button issue. If you got inspired by new mobile development opportunities, then get in touch with our managers. Cleveroad expertise in dealing with backend architecture and cloud computing will help you achieve the top.

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