Certain mobile apps serve content just the same way websites do some content-based websites are moving totally from having a website to just a native mobile app that presents the same content as their website. This move or switch from websites to mobile apps is a result of the increase in the use of mobile phones more people now use mobile phones(smartphones from here) than ever. In recent times, more smartphones are accessing the internet today than there were, say, ten years ago. Because of this increase in the appreciation of smartphones and what they’re capable of, there’s been a series of predictions suggesting that the total number of smartphone users worldwide will grow to 2.5 billion in the coming year.

All the above should let you know that more and more mobile apps will be created, and some websites that offer content will add native apps for their users as one of their list platforms. This means different things for different people, but for us here at Crawlbase, all we are concerned about is how to crawl and scrape the web effectively. We bring you up-to-date information from the web and show how things work concerning web crawling and scraping.

At the end of this post, you will know your chances with scraping mobile apps for content or data you’ll know if it’s possible and how feasible it is. Is it worth it, really?

Mobile App vs Website

Mobile apps work pretty differently from the way websites do. Basically, a live and running website only needs you to access it using any web browser of your choice on any internet-enabled device this proves that websites are platform-independent. This makes things a lot easier since you can pick up any smartphone, tablet, handheld console, etc., that meets the earlier stated criteria (internet access and web browser) just type in the website address, and boom! You have it all displayed on your screen. Due to the simplicity of things here, a bot can simulate a browser and the activities a human could do on a site. Hence, it’ll be viewed as a person accessing the site. The bot can then extract and save the contents and data from the site.

A mobile app doesn’t work in the same manner. A mobile app can’t be accessed with any smartphone unless it is the platform it was built for because mobile apps aren’t platform-independent like websites. This makes the whole process of crawling and scraping mobile apps practically impossible, mainly for two reasons: the one explained above and the fact that smartphones are not great machines for web scraping.

Scrape Mobile Apps for Data

How to Scrape Mobile Apps for Data?

But still, an attempt can be made to scrape mobile apps.

Step 1: Let’s start by installing the app on your computer using an emulator or ARC Welder on Google Chrome. These two options are applicable on Windows machines and for Android apps.

Drawback: There’s no guarantee that after installing the app, the process of extracting and scraping data will be successful. This is all theoretical.

Step 2: Once the app is installed on Chrome(the best option here) using ARC Welder, you can monitor your HTTP/HTTPS traffic on your computer using either Fidler or WireShark. These two apps monitor your internet traffic on your computer.

Drawback #1: These apps monitor all of the traffic coming in and out of your computer. Therefore, the results produced will be impure data.

Drawback #2: Another problem is that many apps today encrypt the data that flows in and out hence, you won’t be able to see the data through the apps because only the app would have the decryption key.

From the uncertainty above, you can tell it is almost impossible to scrape mobile apps it’s best to say it’s not worth the stress and everything involved.

Your best bet is to move to the web version of these apps. Most mobile apps like Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Amazon have web versions from when they started. This is good news because scraping these websites only needs the service of a good web scraper like what we have: Crawlbase. Even mobile-only apps are now including web versions. For example, Instagram, so be assured more and more will introduce websites to cater to those who love doing things on their computers rather than on their tiny smartphones one such person is me. I love it all on my computer with a larger screen.

Can Smart Phones Do Everything?

Mobile phones today have become a very intricate part of our lives. You can relate to it when we say that some people consider mobile phones a basic necessity. This is the result of the various features our mobile phones have to offer us.

Wherever you go, you’ll likely see someone involved in not-so-traditional things a mobile phone was initially meant for. These activities include carrying out office tasks like reading emails, creating and working on presentations, word processing, excel sheets, and even basic graphic designing the list goes on and on and on.

You might then be tempted to ask, out of curiosity, if it’s possible to scrape the web with your phone since it can well be used for a variety of activities that are not the traditional uses: calling and texting.

To sell their wonderful pieces of technology, smartphone OEMs have hyped the capabilities of their ‘tiny computers’ out of proportion. You’ve been made to believe that the newest and latest flagships from your favorite smartphone brand are the best thing to happen to computing after microprocessors.

Undoubtedly, these smartphones are very powerful and can do many things their ancestors couldn’t, thanks to their powerful processors, but all these powers start and end within the tiny screen the smartphone is built with. Anything out of that, your smartphone won’t make a scratch. For example, in bitcoin mining, web scraping, and any CPU/GPU-intensive activity, your smartphone would just freeze!

Scrape Mobile Apps for Data

Why Are Smartphones Unable to Scrape the Web?

Mobile phones or smartphones cannot scrape the web and do some other CPU-intensive jobs because the CPUs of these phones aren’t built for this they’re not built for handling such activities.

Web scraping is a very recursive way of extracting, downloading, and saving the contents of a web page, and most of the time, this process is done over and over again. Depending on the amount of data you’re scraping and the source, your web scraping tool might send billions of requests per hour, which your phone cannot do. You might have been made to know your phone is packing 4GB to 6Gb of RAM, a 2.7Ghz Quad-core (or more) processor, etc.

All these can only be impactful on mobile games, streaming videos, and audio using, say, Netflix, Spotify, or any other, as these are the major things that give your smartphone processor a headache. Any other thing more than these would result in a severe migraine. Basic word processing using any of the mobile office tools can also fly on your mobile. That is one of the basic things a desktop/laptop computer is used for, which requires very minimal computer power and hardware requirements.

Basically, the inability of your smartphone to scrape the web all boils down to the power of the CPU and its’ efficiency. The CPU of a desktop/laptop computer is very different from that of a mobile phone, both in architecture and many other features, such as heat handling. As a result, the processor of a smartphone is very limited, even in the activities it can carry out.

We would have gone into the architectural aspect of the two CPUs but we will keep it for a future post.

Why Do You Need to Scrape Mobile Apps?

Scraping mobile app data through APIs has led to numerous successful applications. Let’s explore a few examples:

  • Market Research and Competitive Analysis: Scraping mobile apps can help you understand your competitors better. You can get insights into app features, pricing strategies, user reviews, and ratings. You can collect valuable data for market research, benchmarking, and identifying opportunities for product improvement.
  • Social Media Analysis: Using social media APIs for scraping data from mobile apps allows your business to monitor user sentiments, engagement metrics, and trends across different platforms. This information will help you understand customer preferences, optimize marketing campaigns, and manage brand reputation effectively.
  • Travel and Hospitality: In the travel and hospitality sector, scraping mobile apps provides access to data like hotel availability, pricing, flight schedules, and tourist attractions. Aggregators, booking platforms, and travel comparison sites benefit from this data to offer comprehensive and up-to-date information to their users.
  • Price Comparison and E-commerce: Scraping e-commerce platforms assist price comparison websites in aggregating product details, pricing information, availability, and reviews. You can make informed purchasing decisions by comparing products across different platforms.
  • Financial Services and Fintech: Mobile app scraping services provide real-time monitoring of stock market data, financial news, investment portfolios, or cryptocurrency prices. This information is helpful for financial analysis, portfolio management, algorithmic trading, or developing financial apps.
  • Health and Fitness: Scraping health and fitness app provides data for personal health tracking, fitness recommendations, or health research. You can access activity tracking data, workout plans, nutritional information, or monitoring health metrics for personalized analysis.
  • Transportation and Navigation: Scraping data from mobile apps from transportation and navigation apps gives out real-time tracking of routes, traffic conditions, public transit schedules, or ride-sharing services. Collect useful data for developing navigation tools, optimizing commutes, or building transportation-related services.
  • Real Estate and Property Management: In the real estate industry, scraping mobile apps facilitates the aggregation of property listings, rental prices, property features, or neighborhood information. This data is super useful for real estate portals, property managers, or investors for market analysis and property management.

These examples showcase the versatility of scraping data from mobile apps across various industries and use cases. But don’t forget to ensure that your scraping activities follow the legal and ethical guidelines and respect the terms of service provided by the mobile apps.

Which Programming Languages are Good for Scraping Mobile Apps?

Various programming languages and tools are commonly used to scrape mobile apps. The choice depends on your familiarity, project needs, and specific use case. Let’s explore some popular options:

  1. Python: Python is extensively used for scraping mobile apps, offering libraries like Requests, BeautifulSoup, Scrapy, and Selenium. These make API interactions, data extraction, and parsing straightforward.
  2. JavaScript: Known for client-side web development, JavaScript is also suitable for scraping mobile apps. Libraries like Axios, Fetch, or Superagent help in making HTTP requests, handling responses, and extracting data.
  3. Ruby: Valued for its simplicity, Ruby has libraries like HTTParty and RestClient, making API interactions and data extraction efficient.
  4. PHP: Commonly used for web development, PHP has libraries like Guzzle, cURL, or Requests, enabling seamless API interactions and data extraction.
  5. Java: A versatile language, Java has libraries like OkHttp or Apache HttpClient for sending HTTP requests, handling responses, and parsing data and scraping mobile apps.
  6. Node.js: Utilizing JavaScript, Node.js is known for server-side execution. Libraries like Axios, Request, or node-fetch simplify API interactions and data extraction.
  7. cURL: As a command-line tool, cURL facilitates making HTTP requests directly, making it versatile across operating systems.
  8. Postman: Ideal for API development and testing, Postman offers a user-friendly interface. It helps you in making API requests, inspecting responses, and extracting data.

These are just a few examples, and many other programming languages and tools are available for scraping data from mobile apps. When selecting, consider factors such as your familiarity, community support, available libraries, and the specific requirements of your scraping project.

Challenges of Scraping Data from Mobile Apps?

Scraping mobile apps can have legal implications, and it’s important to work within the legal framework. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Terms of Service: Mobile apps usually have terms of service outlining how their data can be used. It’s important to review and comply with these terms to avoid legal consequences.
  2. Intellectual Property Rights: Mobile apps may hold copyrights over their data, content, or user-generated content. Scraping mobile apps without permission might infringe on these rights. Respect data ownership and avoid unauthorized use.
  3. Privacy and Data Protection: Mobile app scraping may involve collecting personal or sensitive information. Comply with privacy laws like GDPR or CCPA. Obtain user consent if needed and handle personal data securely.
  4. Anti-Scraping Measures: Some apps use rate limiting or CAPTCHAs to prevent scraping. Bypassing these may be considered unauthorized access, which is illegal.
  5. Copyright Act and Fair Use: If scraping includes copyrighted content, consider fair use exemptions for purposes like criticism or research. Consult legal professionals to understand the applicability of fair use.
  6. Industry-Specific Regulations: Certain industries have specific regulations. Ensure compliance with industry standards when scraping in contexts like finance or healthcare.

You must consult legal professionals who are familiar with data scraping and intellectual property laws in your jurisdiction. Respecting developers’ rights, user privacy, and applicable laws will help avoid legal consequences. Some apps use technical measures to deter scraping bypassing these might be considered illegal access.