Amplitude vs Mixpanel? Understanding the Pros and Cons of Each.

Related: This video is part of our Ultimate Guide on Amplitude Analytics. This resource will help you understand how to use Amplitude and how it can fit into your data strategy.


Video Transcript:

Hi, everyone. Today we’ll be talking about two of the most common tools that I’ve seen for product analytics, Mixpanel and Amplitude. They sort of come in … Almost get mentioned in the same sentence these days. Now, let’s dive right into it.

I delved in a lot of work around Mixpanel, less so around Amplitude. Of course, they’re very similar and whenever a company asks me about what’s Mixpanel they might say, “Hey. But, what about Amplitude?” Or vice versa.

I really want to look at some of the core difference I have seen in both tools and some of the difference I’ve seen from meeting actually the teams on how they’re approaching analytics or what they think their vision is for analytics over the next, I’d say five years.

As you can see, I have here the homepage of Mixpanel. Now, the first thing. When I look at an analytics tool what I’m trying to figure out is, what is their position? Who are they targeting? Are they going after small businesses? Are they going after mobile apps or SaaS or E-commerce? Or whatever it may be. Just trying to understand what their position is and I get those clues from what the website says and of course, what they focus on when you actually meet them. Maybe what their resources are or maybe sometimes what their blogs are doing.

For Mixpanel, the perspective we got from Mixpanel over the past few years is they seem to be geared more towards mobile apps, or at least they were. Maybe their switching slightly now, but a lot of the product is sort of geared towards mobile apps and you can see that when you see some features inside the Mixpanel product that are only available for mobile apps.

Mixpanel let’s you do AP test with mobile apps, there’s no AP test for web apps. That’s one thing. They of course have taken a focus on some web apps. Of course there’s still a lot of SaaS companies or web apps that still use Mixpanel and they’re geared towards Mixpanel, but to me it feels like they have a little bit more focus for mobile companies. Especially, for companies that want to do cross platform.

Maybe they have web, but they also have a very strong mobile presence on IOS and Android. Now, Amplitude on the other hand seems to really be built not so much … I wouldn’t say they’re really mobile focused. They really do seem to be built more around product as a whole and very much about that cross platform idea. Companies that really have an app across web, and IOS, and Android.

They don’t feel like they’re only mobile friendly or only like that. I wouldn’t say they’re also just web app friendly, they really seem to be focused on products specifically. That’s the perception I get from Amplitude, based on what they’re looking at. You see a lot of references to product. Mixpanel, you might see some references to marketing or growth.

Now, the other thing that also comes along when I think about position sort of philosophy, I find that philosophy can determine how the product grows or where the product is going. Philosophy’s tricky and you find you can only really get that from talking to the people inside the company. It’s sorta hard to extrapolate the philosophy by just looking at the marketing website.

But, I had the chance to talk about [inaudible 00:03:17] Mixpanel people or talk to Amplitude people. For Mixpanel specifically, they’re taking a path where they have the basic reports … The sort of fundamental reports and they really want to build upon that with some machine learning, some insights. You’ll see that.

For example, they have a report called Signal that’s trying to help you do some predictive analytics around your data and have all your sort of other predictive analytic steps reports built in. That’s one route that Mixpanel going towards and the other one is notifications. Mixpanel product lets you do notifications, email, SMS, push on.

The basic idea is you’re gonna track your data inside, and then if you want to send an engagement notification or a campaign of some kind you can build that and send it all with them. If your company says, “Hey. We need product data, we need product analytics data. It’ll be great to get some help on the inside portion. Maybe we don’t have as much resources around data analysis, so if you can some insight source service for us, that’d be awesome. We also want to do notifications out of the box too, we don’t want to have a second tool set up.”

That’s sort of the philosophy of what Mixpanel is building over … Or what they have been building recently over the past few months. Now, Amplitude on the other hand is taking a slightly different philosophy. When I talked to them, their philosophy is they want to be best in class on one thing and that’s analytics.

When it comes to reporting, core reports, and anything around that, that’s what they want to do. They’re built for people who want to do very advanced reports and do very sort of advanced things. If you want notifications you have to go get it somewhere else. They do have some machine learning built in, I imagine that’s something that they’ll probably build upon and they also have somewhat very advanced reports that are sort of very cool that used to be doable only by using Python, and R, and so on.

They’re sort of building on top of the Amplitude platform and letting non data analysts do that work, or even making it easy for data analysts to do those things. That philosophy is so interesting, because you can see that perhaps the Mixpanel product will eventually might not be as good in terms of reports and we can even see that today. Versus the Amplitude is just really doubling down on reports and leaving other things to the side.

I would define basic reports as the following. One, you have a way to break apart your events and see patterns or transferring data. You take your event data, you break it down by properties, and you display that in different charts. That’s one basic report. Mixpanel [inaudible 00:05:47] is inside, [inaudible 00:05:48] segmentation. Amplitude I think has a similar name for it.

I actually can’t remember what Amplitude calls it, but that’s a very basic event breakdown report. Tells you what happened. Another fundamental report, we have funnel. We can also build a funnel on multiple steps and see the conversion rate through the funnels. A third basic report would be retention, so this would be a core analysis. We can see that here and be able to see are people using the product.

And then, the fourth basic report I would say is profiles. Being able to look at individual users, and their timeline, and all the little things that they did. All the events they fired. At those core reports Mixpanel and Amplitude are the same, they both have the same core reports. If you’re going Amplitude and we sort of dig down a little bit into some of the reports … I don’t think they might have it here on the website anymore what their actual reports are.

Those basic reports, they are really almost identical if you just consider those reports. There’s some subtle differences that I think come from Amplitude being sort of a newer product where you could see a little bit more flexibility built into some of their basic reports. If we look at this create chart right here …

Actually, no. Their most popular are basically those four reports I just talked about. The event segmentation, being able to breakdown events, a final analysis, retention, and user … User compensation is actually something else. It’s four core reports and in Mixpanel we have the same thing.

We have insights, which is your breakdown of event segmentation. Segmentation, almost the same. I think segmentation is actually a report that will disappear soon. We have funnels, retention, and then we have on the user, is explorer. Those core reports are almost the same. Like I said, I think the Amplitude reports are a little bit more flexible.

For example, the funnels in Mixpanel are in order. You have to go through steps and a logical fashion, if they don’t they’ll get counted in some steps. Versus Amplitude lets you do [unlineal 00:07:50] funnels. It’s little details like that, that perhaps give Amplitude the edge on those basic reports. But, if that’s all you’re looking for then both those are very similar, you’re not gonna miss a lot by not being in one or the other.

However, what we then see is that then we have some more advanced reports on the Amplitude side that Mixpanel just doesn’t have. Pathfinder, Personas, Compass, Life Cycle … There’s a lot of different reports here that are very advanced that are very, very cool once you have a lot of data, that Amplitude does have.

The common example when people ask me to choose, it’s if you just want the basic reports, you’re really off … Doesn’t really matter. If you want those basic reports and notifications? Mixpanel’s probably the best tool for that, because you’ll get that out of the box. If you want to get the basic reports and get another tool for notifications like Intercom or Customer IO, or something else then maybe Amplitude will be a better choice.

If you’re thinking that, “Hey. Do some of those advanced reports like Personas, and Pathfinder, and so on is something we want?” Then you’d probably be better off with Amplitude in the future. The other thing that also comes from the reports is actually looking at the pricing. Let me see … No. I have to logout here to see the pricing.

I find Amplitude has probably the most interesting pricing out of all the analytics tools, it’s very, very appealing pricing. On the pricing side, Amplitude gives you a free plan. They only have two options, free and enterprise. Free is up to [inaudible 00:09:27] and events, unlimited user accounts and you get the core analytics.

I believe the core analytics is a lot of things that we talk about. Those funnels, cohort retention, revenue, and so on. Core analytics is basically what Mixpanel has and we can see a lot of their enterprise stuff is the advanced stuff. Pathfinder, behavioral cohort, Microscope, Personas, and so on. The sort of things that are really helpful, but they’re only really helpful once you have data. There’s sort of no point in giving it to you for free when you’re just starting out.

Mixpanel on the other hand, their pricing is a little bit more … I guess, more plan based. [inaudible 00:10:01]. They do have a free plan, five million data points. You get the core reports. [inaudible 00:10:08] the core reports are. The core reports is again, those same things we were talking about. Retention, funnel, and so on. It looks like some other things like their machine learning predict, which predicts which user likes to convert.

That’s more of an enterprise level, but you get the bulk of the Mixpanel stuff you get in the free plan and it’s five million events versus 10. Maybe a slight difference you start, but really the main limitation in the Mixpanel free plan is actually the profiles, the people. Track individual users, Amplitude gives you unlimited user accounts, but Mixpanel only gives you 1,000. If you want up to 50K, then you’re at about $1,000 a year. That’s really the main limitation, and then you go into enterprise.

At the enterprise level … I actually think they’re both quite similar, I’ve seen both quotes from both companies. It’s usually a 50/100K investment once you’re there. So, at the enterprise level it’s very similar. That’s the pricing, so I find the Amplitude prices that are free is very appealing, especially because you get sort of a lot of things out of the box for free and you can build a lot of expertise around that. And then, when you’re ready for a little bit more advanced reports you might be there already.

On the other hand, you also get notifications with Mixpanel. Another thing to compare at especially nowadays is integrations, you’ve seen more and more … Both actually move towards integrations and bringing data from other tools or sending data to other tools. I believe that Mixpanel integrations, they’re actually pretty similar I think when it comes to integrations. Both Mixpanel and Amplitude, they both integrate with things like Salesforce. I know Mixpanel recently added Zapier, which that gives you access to 1,000 other tools once you will set that up. That’s a big plus for Mixpanel.

On the Amplitude side they do have outbound phone notifications, which makes sense because [inaudible 00:11:53] notifications. You can do outbound. Urban Airship, I think that’s notifications as well and Mixpanel I think might have more [inaudible 00:12:00]. They’re similar in terms of what tools they integrate, some might have one or the other. It really depends on what tools you’re looking for.

I do find that a lot of companies do build custom integrations to tools like Mixpanel and Amplitude, just because they need them and it’s not like they have all those options. I guess, Mixpanel’s with Zapier. You can have a lot more options, but that’s something that you probably want to watch out because you’re probably want to watch out because you’re gonna see more and more integrations coming in, because these tools are now living in the middle of tools like [inaudible 00:12:28] and Salesforce, and all this other stuff. Seeing more and more integrations is something I would expect from it.

Lastly, if we’re comparing them we have to look at the implementation effort. I find that’s, I will say almost identical in terms of implementation time. You’ll be implemented for the JavaScript library, so maybe a server library or maybe the HTTP API. One benefit Mixpanel has here is they have built libraries over time for things like Python, and Ruby, and PHP. Which gives something to make it easier to implement. That’s one thing.

Amplitude on the other hand, I believe only has JavaScript. They do have the mobile [inaudible 00:13:03] case like IOS and Android, but they have no separate libraries. If you want to do server you tend to be thrown into the HTTP API for important data. Over the … From my experience it seems like a backing developer might not care too much, if it’s the HTTP library they’ll just build something around that. It might not be a big con when you look at that.

But, that is one thing. If you do want sort of nice libraries for Python or Ruby then Mixpanel will have those for you. But, once again. We look at the Amplitude product and there’s little details that might make it slightly easier. The things that you might not look as much when you start, but then eventually … Or at least in my perspective when I see 10/20 implementations plus, you start to notice those little things.

Amplitude has a way to track sessions out of the box, it’s pretty handy. You can do that in Mixpanel, you just have to sort of hack it on your own. For example, the user identification it’s a little easier on Amplitude. They have a little less steps, a little bit more reliable than Mixpanel. But, those little things when you’re starting out, not that big of a deal. If you’re a little along the curve then it’ll be worth it to debate a little bit some of the technical limitations or technical differences before you make a decision.

But, both tools are great options. I’m of course quite fond of Mixpanel after using it so much, but I can definitely say that Amplitude product is slowly starting to sort of sell me over just because it’s quite nice and some of the little details you notice them after some time. Where you’re like, “Oh. That’s really cool.” Or like, “Oh. Yeah. That took me a long time to do in this other tool and I can do out of the box here.”

Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.

One more thing before you go! Are you getting the data you need to grow your company?

I find most companies are stuck with high-level metrics and they aren't able to properly understand what actually drives user growth for their web and mobile products. To do that, you need the right data and the right tools.

If this sounds like your situation, then you should download our free tracking plan (and tutorial video). This is the document that you should create before you ever implement tools like Mixpanel, Amplitude, Segment, and Intercom. Click the image below to download your own free tracking plan (and tutorial video).

Ruben Ugarte
Ruben Ugarte
I'm the founder of Practico Analytics and I created this company to help companies use analytics data to grow their web and mobile products. I love combining data, psychology, and systems in work and in personal projects.

1 Comment

  1. Bru says:

    That was really useful! Gracias Ruben!

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