Shorten URLs in Android and gain insight into websites

Jack Wallen discovers some serious added bonus in an app that, on the surface, looks like a one-trick pony.

Every once in a while, I run across an app in the Google Play Store that offers far more than I bargained for. Such is the case with what, on the surface, seemed like it would be a one-trick (but necessary) pony. As it turns out, that pony had another trick up its hooves and really caught me by surprise.

The app is URL Shortener. What the app does is shorten URLs so that you can more easily paste them into services like Twitter, where character count is king. The thing is, URL Shortener offers another really great feature -- for those who depend on analytics and other important data points. With URL Shortener, you get:

  • URLs shortened by
  • Access to your shortened history
  • Colorful analytics about shortened links (not just yours)
  • Shorten links through Android's built-in "share" feature

As you can clearly see, URL Shortener sells itself short as a, seemingly, innocuous app for shortening links. In fact, this little tool should be included with every Android device out of the box.

With all of that said, let's install and use this must-have piece of software.


Installing URL Shortener is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your device
  2. Search for url shortener
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Thomas Devaux
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read through the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions are acceptable, tap Accept

Once the installation is complete, launch the app (from either the home screen or the app drawer). At this point, you'll need to choose an account to associate with the app (it requires this to keep your shortened history). Select the account, and tap OK. Next, you'll be required to give URL Shortener permission. Tap OK to allow URL Shortener to manage your short URLs.

You're now ready to begin shortening URLs.


There are two ways to use URL Shortener. The first is for when you want to share a link -- this action will not get you to the analytics of the URL (you can see them later). Let's walk through this process. Here's how to share a shortened link:

  1. Open the web browser on your device
  2. Navigate to the URL you want to shorten
  3. Tap the menu button
  4. Tap Share
  5. Locate and tap URL Shortener from the Share via list
  6. Tap the Share button (Figure A)

Figure A

Figure A
URL Shortener sharing from a Verizon-branded HTC M8.

At this point, you tap the method you wish to use for sharing and share away.

The second way to use URL Shortener is from within the app itself. Here's how this is done:

  1. Open the web browser on your device
  2. Navigate to the URL you want to shorten
  3. Long-press the URL
  4. Tap the Copy button (second button from right -- Figure B)
    Figure B
    Figure B
  5. Tap the device home button
  6. Open URL Shortener
  7. Long-press the Paste your long URL here text area (Figure C)
    Figure C
    Figure C
  8. Tap Paste
  9. Tap the link button
  10. Tap the newly created entry for the shortened URL

At this point, you should see the information page for this shortened URL (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D
The information page for the shortened URL.

From this same page, you can also get insight into the URL that you shortened. The information doesn't appear right away (Google Analytics has to analyze the page first).

The one caveat to URL Shortener is that any link you shorten will be made public. You can, however, hide those URLs. To do this, you have to open from a web browser (one that is logged into your Gmail account. From this page (Figure E), you can select a shortened URL and then click the Hide button. Once you've done that, the shortened URL and the page information cannot be viewed by the public.

Figure E

Figure E
Hiding shortened URLs.

The information you get from URL Shortener includes:

  • Referrers
  • Browsers
  • Countries
  • Platforms

Again, the information takes time to populate, so keep going back into the app until you see the information appear.

Finding the extra features in URL shortener was quite an unexpected bonus. For anyone who shares a lot of URLs (and tends to do so in character-limited locations/services), this app is a must-have. Getting insight into the shortened URLs is just icing on an already delicious cake.

Should URL Shortener be a part of the default behavior in the Android ecosystem? And is the added feature of Google Analytics something useful for the average user or the IT pro? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....