There is a huge, substantial difference between the two platforms. Google Analytics was born in 2005, way before mobile platforms such as Android or iOS were a thing, and therefore it was developed with the web as its main focus. Later on it was expanded to accommodate mobile apps tracking, but it was never meant to do that in the first place. On the other hand, Firebase Analytics has been announced just 4/5 months ago, and it was built with mobile in mind from the ground up.
For this reason, while Google Analytics (GA) is able to handle different types of properties (web, mobile, …), Firebase Analytics (FA) is focused exclusively on the mobile environment, with its own advantages and disadvantages.
With that in mind, we can proceed in further analyzing how the two products compare, and what you should use to maximize the benefits of the analytics tool.
Firebase Analytics: what’s there to like
Here’s a list of the advantages that FA brings with it, The takeaway from this list is, there’s a lot to like with Firebase Analytics. Audiences are an insanely powerful feature, and when paired with Notifications, it allows you to communicate and engage users in various ways. For instance, since FA automatically creates an audience for users that have experienced a crash in your app, you can engage with those users to let them know that you’re on the problem.:
- Free and unlimited, except for the number of types of events (limited to 500); no limits on the volume of events per each type
- Some events are logged automatically
- Dead-easy setup, no singleton to initialize → just include the Gradle dependency and start logging events
- Audiences! Allows to create groups of users based on various parameters/events; can be coupled with Firebase Notifications, so to engage users based on their audience
- Funnel analysis makes much more sense than in GA, since FA is based on events and not on screen views
- All-in-one console, if you plan on using other Firebase services
- When using Firebase Crash Reporting, an audience with users who experienced a crash is automatically created
- Relatively low methods footprint, compared to GA’s methods count
Firebase Analytics: what’s missing from GA and what can be improved
- No real-time view
- For the aforementioned reason, events are available after a 4–6 hours period
- Behavior Flow (from GA) is missing, no clue if it is going to be added in the future
- Mobile only platform: if you want to track a website with Firebase, you’re out of luck
Probably the most annoying thing here is the absence of a real-time panel. I find myself using it on GA more often than I’d imagine, as it can quickly give you an overview of the current state of your app, of the number of users that are active on that moment, and what is the feature they are using the most at that time. Behavior Flow differs from a more traditional funnel because it passively analyzes the entry points and allows you to explore the flow of screens that the user navigates from there, while with a funnel you have to explicitly choose the screens/events that you’re interested in.
Which one should you use?
A legitimate question deserves a proper answer.
For app-only companies: use Firebase Analytics
For companies that only have a website: use Google Analytics
For companies with both an app and a website: use both Firebase Analytics and Google Analytics
And I completely agree. Firebase is a mobile-focused analytics platform, and is not prone to handling concepts that are web-related: there’s Google Analytics for that. But if you have both a website and some mobile apps, you’d be better off using both Google Analytics and Firebase Analytics at the same time, because you can get the best of the two worlds simultaneously.