Hey! Why do your Windows Phone app need all that access!?

I recently received a comment from a Windows Phone owner questioning if one of my apps were spyware because of all the capabilities it required. The reason might be obvious for us developers but we can lose users if we don’t explain it better for them.

Similar rating comments for other apps can be found in the WP Store and I understand if the user feels uncomfortable with not knowing why a simple app or game needs access to his/her media library and identity. My tiny quiz app Word King is a good example. It has no online content and no need for any special capabilities on the phone. Nevertheless it requires:

  • phone identity
  • owner identity
  • location services
  • photo, music, and video libraries
  • data services
  • movement and directional sensor

In my case and probably most others it is because I have included ads in my game from two ad providers:

Microsoft Advertising SDK for Windows Phone
Web site: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/advertising-mobile-windows-phone-sdk(v=msads.20).aspx
Capabilities required: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/advertising-mobile-windows-phone-manifest-capabilities(v=msads.20).aspx

  • ID_CAP_IDENTITY_USER
  • ID_CAP_MEDIALIB - to allow users to save an offer coupon to the phone’s media library for later use
  • ID_CAP_NETWORKING
  • ID_CAP_PHONEDIALER – to support “click-to-call” features in ads
  • ID_CAP_WEBBROWSERCOMPONENT – to show ads inside the browser component

Nokia Ad Exchange (NAX)
Web site: http://www.developer.nokia.com/Distribute/NAX/
Capabilities required: https://inneractive.jira.com/wiki/plugins/viewsource/viewpagesrc.action?pageId=6095168

  • ID_CAP_IDENTITY_DEVICE
  • ID_CAP_LOCATION – to show location-based ads

A non-technical explanation

The days with mostly forgiving early adopters using our apps are over and we as publishers risk to lose potential downloads if we require capabilities without explaining why. I have decided to include this text in the app description next time I release a new version of an app using ads:

This app is using X capability for Y functionality.
The other requested capabilities are used by the ad providers Microsoft Advertising and Nokia Ad Exchange to show location-based ads. The media library access is for allowing the user to save ad coupons.

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