The world knows Finland’s Rovio as the creator of the runaway success Angry Birds game, which to date has seen over 250 million downloads. What the world doesn’t know as well is that Rovio is a conscientious developer that strives to be a good network ecosystem player by proactively taking steps to understand exactly the effect that its games have on operator networks.
That’s why they came to us in our Smart Lab in Espoo, Finland, where we focus on testing mobile applications and handsets and their effects on the networks. Because each new release generates millions of simultaneous downloads and gameplay in the first few days after launch, Rovio asked us to take a look at how Angry Birds performs both on handsets and in networks, to make sure that their game wouldn’t accidentally bring down anyone’s systems anywhere around the globe.
Here’s what we found. First and foremost, Angry Birds generates a very acceptable level of data and signaling traffic, and even huge numbers of simultaneous downloads and gameplay shouldn’t negatively affect anyone’s network. Good news there — and a key takeaway, because our testing has been incorrectly understood in some circles as confirming that Angry Birds causes network problems. Not remotely true.
But then we did find a surprise. Our test consisted of playing Angry Birds for an hour on an iPhone and an Android-based Samsung Galaxy, and comparing the signaling and data traffic generated on both to a baseline of just weather and email apps running in the background. The data generated in all cases was negligible, so let’s focus on the signaling.
Some key numbers:
Baseline weather and email apps: 688 signals in the hour
Angry Birds on the iPhone: 742 signals in the hour (8% more than baseline)
Angry Birds on the Samsung: 2422 signals in the hour (352% more than baseline)
Wow! What was going on to make the Android version generate 3.5 times more signaling than the iPhone version? In short: Mobile advertising. Here’s the difference – on the iPhone, you pay for the full version of Angry Birds, then as you play it, the app doesn’t connect to the network. But on the *free* Android version, which makes it revenues from mobile advertising, a brand new ad is pushed to the handset each time the player reaches a new level. And if you’re any good at Angry Birds, that can be quite often. So the Android version of Angry Birds was making a lot of network connections that the iPhone version wasn’t. Mystery solved.
And just to put this in perspective, playing online poker on an iPhone for an hour generates 6402 signals. Those turn-based games make even more network connections than mobile advertising does.
So here are the main things to keep in mind when looking at this:
– 2400+ signaling messages per hour is indeed much higher than the baseline
– but this high signaling volume occurs only when you are playing the game (compared to many applications such as e-mail or Google Latitude which generate signaling even when you’re not actively using the phone)
– this occurs only on the Android device with free versions of the game – they’re free because they include advertising
– the reason for this signaling is advertising and the way advertising is delivered
– advertising delivery for Angry Birds is done by Google (Rovio cannot influence this), so any reduction of mobile ad-associated signaling will have to be done by Google, not Rovio
We’re very pleased that Rovio has taken the initiative to make sure its application performs well in the network. And we’re glad that this testing has highlighted another place where it looks like there might be room for some signaling optimization in the mobile internet ecosystem.
Some background about the Nokia Siemens Networks Smart Labs:
Nokia Siemens Networks proactively motivates all the players in the ecosystem – application developers, network vendors and device manufacturers alike – to cooperate and develop solutions that are designed to work end-to-end. To contribute to this cause, Nokia Siemens Networks has created Smart Labs to enhance the everyday experience of smartphone users. Smart Labs operate from several physical locations – one in Espoo, Finland, one in Dallas, Texas, USA, and a third in Seoul, Korea that has a special focus on collaboration with operators and handset manufacturers in Korea – with the aim of boosting mobile broadband usability, fostering the mobile ecosystem and cooperation among key stakeholders.
This post is by Leslie Shannon from our Network Systems team.