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How to Track Pre-Installs for Google Play Auto Install (PAI)

In the mobile apps universe, there are a variety of ways to reach new user audiences for your products. One of the ways is to pay device manufacturers to pre-install your apps on Android devices.

MyTracker recently added a PAI pre-install attribution feature. Now account managers and marketing professionals can track installs and other app-linked events that use the Google Play Auto Install mechanism.

In this article, we will talk more about PAI pre-installs and how to get them, and how to configure tracking on MyTracker and assess performance.

What are pre-installs?

Pre-installs are apps installed on a device without direct user involvement.

For example, apps can be installed on smartphones by their makers, at smartphone purchase from a retailer, or automatically from Google Play when the device is first activated. Specific conditions and mechanisms depend on the pre-install partner.

MyTracker offers a number of methods to track different types of pre-installs. Recently, we added tracking of pre-installs using PAI.

What are PAI pre-installs?

PAI pre-installs are app installs on Android devices that are downloaded and installed automatically from Google Play when users activate the mobile device for the first time. Usually these pre-installs can be purchased from device manufacturers.

PAI pre-installs offer a number of benefits compared to apps added to devices before leaving the factory, and they are available immediately after agreement with the manufacturer is reached and documentation is completed. Factory pre-installs take more time – up to two months between reaching an agreement and having the app actually installed. With PAI, install data can be obtained as early as the next day.

How to get PAI pre-installs

For a developer, working with PAI can include the following steps:

1. Choosing the partner

PAI pre-installs are purchased from companies that make Android devices. Today, PAI pre-installs are supported by:

Before opting for a partner, you need to analyze the devices most popular with your target audience. For example, if your audience has strong purchasing power, you may want to focus on partners that offer more expensive devices.

Once your analysis is done, it is time to contact the partner to discuss potential collaboration.

2. Buying pre-installs

After you have selected your partner, the purchase of pre-installs comes into play, involving negotiations of their price and volume.

For purchases to take place, there must be an agreement with the partner that sets out all the details: price, number of pre-installs, and conditions of service, such as targeting.

Purchase of PAI pre-installs is done directly via vendors. When planning purchases using Google Play Auto Install, you need to first request forecast device sales data for your market (e.g. for a one-year period): this way you can understand the sales volume and also get an idea of the number of activations you can realistically reach by the end of the purchase period.

The business model here can differ depending on the product goal and mechanism. In most cases, purchases are linked to CPA (e.g. app activation – first launch of an app when connected to the Internet) or use a revenue sharing (RS) model.

Available business models:

Revenue sharing (RS)

CPA (cost per action): activation – first launch of an app when connected to the Internet

CPO (cost per order): first in-app purchase

CPR (cost per registration): each logged-in user

3. Targeting for pre-installed apps

In addition to getting the pre-installs, you need to define the regions and device models you want to cover. This way you can make the most of your pre-install campaign.

Selecting a geographic region depends on where your target audience is located. For example, if your app is designed for a Russian-speaking audience, it makes sense to have it pre-installed on devices targeting users from the CIS. By contrast, if you have a hyper-casual mobile game with ad monetization, you might want to focus on countries with high population density and low purchasing power, such as India or Indonesia.

The choice of device models is about device specs. What is important here is the device performance: make sure it is enough to have your app run without glitches and create a positive user experience. Also, your app needs to be compatible with the device. This is especially relevant for outdated models, as they have trouble migrating to new versions of software.

The region and device models for pre-install targeting can be a matter of discussion with your partner before you sign an agreement.

4. Tracking and analyzing results

Once your app is pre-installed on devices, it is important to track and analyze the results you get. This way, you can gauge the effectiveness of your pre-install strategy.

MyTracker is a great option for that. To use MyTracker, once you sign an agreement with your partner of choice, you need to configure PAI pre-install tracking and analyze the results.

How to configure PAI pre-install tracking using MyTracker

To configure PAI pre-install tracking, you need to first sign up for MyTracker, add your app, and integrate the SDK.

After that, you need to create a Pre-Install type campaign. To do so, go to Campaigns → Add.

play auto install

Then fill in the form for a new campaign and select “Pre-install” in the campaign type field.

For you to be able to evaluate ad campaigns broken down by partner, we recommend you specify your pre-install partner in the partner field. If your partner is not on the list, you can add it yourself.

pre-install campaign

For your new campaign, now create a tracking link to obtain configuration settings for tracking pre-installs. For that, on the campaign page, go to the Tracking Links section and choose Add.

PAI campaign tracking

In the tracking link creation form, choose the app for which you want to configure pre-install tracking.

google play auto install tracking

Go to the tracking link, copy the referrer value and ask the manufacturer to add it to utm_campaign parameter for PAI pre-installs.

PAI referrer tracking

Make sure the referrer has been added to the utm_campaign parameter.

As a result, when users first launch the specified app, the integrated MyTracker SDK will send a request to Google Play Install Referrer API. In response, MyTracker will get the same referrer to link the install to a specific ad campaign and device manufacturer.

Ask the manufacturer to run several test PAI installs and check whether they are displayed in MyTracker.

android play auto install

For detailed information on pre-install tracking configuration in MyTracker, go to our documents.

After you have negotiated purchasing pre-installs with the manufacturer, configured and tested the tracking, and purchased a trial batch of pre-installs, you can measure the results of your ad campaign.

How to measure pre-installs using MyTracker

To evaluate the performance of a campaign relying on pre-installs via PAI, you can use a variety of metrics, including:

1. Number of the app's first launches

The number of first launches, or activations, is a basic metric for all PAI campaigns. It shows how many users first launched a pre-installed app.

For example, if you had 10,000 pre-installs and 5,000 of them were activated, this means that 50% of the users that had your app pre-installed actually opened and used it. This might show the initial interest that users have in your app.

2. Retention rate

This metric shows the percentage of customers that continue using the app after the first launch.

A high rate of first launches but low retention might mean users do not consider your app to be helpful or engaging enough to continue using it.

If out of 5,000 activated users only 1,000 remain on day 2, your retention rate is 20%. For average retention values typical of apps of different categories, check out our research.

3. Average session duration

This metric shows how much time users spend in your app during one session. You can arrive at an optimal value by benchmarking against the average session duration of new users that you acquire for your app through ad campaigns.

The metric is important for PAI campaigns as it is possible that users who have your app pre-installed are not familiar with it. If a pre-installed app has extremely short sessions, this might mean users have problems getting used to the app.

To fix this, consider using onboarding – a process that helps first-time users understand how your app works. To learn more about effective onboarding, check out this article on our blog.

4. Conversion into paid services or in-app purchases

If your app offers paid services or purchases, you can use this metric to measure the percentage of users ready to pay.

To get an idea of average conversion values for different app categories, go to our research.

5. Churn rate

This metric shows the number of users that continue using the app after the first day/week/month. If the churn rate is high, this might mean your app fails to live up to the expectations of users who have it pre-installed on their devices.

Learn more about addressing app churn on our blog. MyTracker has a churn prediction feature, which helps you identify the audience segments that are most likely to quit. Using this tool, you can take timely action and launch a campaign to retain users.


Attribution of PAI pre-installs in MyTracker gives you more opportunities to understand and optimize marketing campaigns.

Using this feature, you can gauge essential metrics such as number of activations of pre-installed apps, retention rate, app session duration, conversion to paid services or in-app purchases, user churn, and much more. All these metrics help analyze user behavior and the performance of your pre-install campaigns.

With this new feature, you can improve your pre-install strategies, better target audiences, optimize apps depending on user preferences, and ultimately boost the revenue from app pre-installs.

Analysis of PAI pre-installs via MyTracker opens up new horizons for mobile app strategy optimization, helping you to get the most out of each pre-install. Sign up today and start measuring your campaigns.

Tags: attribution monetization marketing analytics