If you’re new to the world of android then you may want to read this guide on app quality, and if you’ve been using this OS you should also read this guide, we can always learn something.
Android is an amazing OS in no small part due to the freedom it gives the user. With the right know how any basic user can change most things about its phone, from replacing the default sms app to installing a completely different version of android. That’s the good part of having an open ended OS, the bad part is that there’s no real filter which means pretty much any app can do anything to your phone IF you let them. That last part is really important, Google has set up android in such a way that YOU, the user has to consent to what an app wants to do, so the biggest filter in android is YOU. This may be confusing at first, but with a few easy guidelines it can be easy to have a clean snappy device.
1- App installs: An app can only be installed if you let it. Most people will only use the Play Store to install apps so unless you’re installing apps from other sources you should uncheck “Unknown sources” in the security tab on your phone. It will be unchecked by default. This means that under normal circumstances an app can’t install another app without your permission.
2- Battery Apps: I see way too many people with battery saver apps. Here’s something interesting, 99% of them are snake oil. That’s right, unless you’re rooted(if you don’t know what this is you’re not, don’t worry) none of those apps do anything at all. They claim to clean processes from phone memory, but android doesn’t work the same way a regular computer does, once you clean an app from memory it will pop right up again, and it will use more battery than if you’d just let it do its thing. Don’t get me wrong, background processes do drain your battery, but save a few involved processes the only way to stop them is to uninstall the app in question. All these battery saving apps do is display pretty graphics and animations, provide completely inaccurate battery life numbers and shove ads down your throat.
Now that I mentioned ads, I should get a little more into it. Ads are everywhere, it’s a part of our world, and an even bigger part of the mobile apps world, no matter which OS you’re using. Devs need to make money and they either ask for it upfront when you buy an app or in-app purchases or they show ads. No one likes working for free except for a small selection of apps. If an app is free and has no ads then the product is you and your data, beware apps that need contacts permissions, which brings us to the next point.
3- Too many permissions
Google wants to protect its product and therefore its users, which is why android apps can’t just access your phone willy nilly, for an app to do anything but the most basic things it needs permissions. Who gives these permissions you ask? You do! You might not even know it but whenever you press “Install” on the Play Store, a small window pops up that tells you what an app needs to access so you know beforehand what you’re getting into.
This is an app that has been featured on our site, “DU Battery Saver”. Why does a battery app need to access your identity, your files, and device ID? Here’s a hint, it doesn’t, they’re probably selling your data to the highest bidder. Some permissions are ok, like the bluetooth and wifi permissions, this app probably has the ability to turn on and off those features, but there’s absolutely no reason for it to be accessing your phonebook.
If you must use an app with permissions you’re not comfortable with, starting on android 6.0 you can revoke specific permissions to an app by going to settings, apps, selecting the app you want to edit permissions to and toggling its permissions on or off, please keep in mind that some apps may not work correctly after that. Android 6.0 also introduced a feature that makes apps ask for permissions while they’re running, so instead of just clicking “Allow” whenever that little nag window pops up you might want to consider why an app needs that permission.
4-RAM/Memory cleaning apps
Remember when we talked about Battery apps earlier in this post, how they’re snake oil and don’t do anything? Well, RAM and memory cleaning apps are just as useless for the same reasons. Android doesn’t use RAM the way other operative systems do, it manages its own RAM automatically, so when you kill an app it pops back up, like I explained earlier, but if your phone has hit the RAM limit then android itself will clean apps you’re not using from its memory. Older android versions didn’t do this, but if you bought your phone after 2012 then congratulations, your android phone is excellent at housekeeping. Many of these apps also claim to clean memory, which attracts many users with limited storage space. Their claims on these regards are somewhat true. What these apps are doing is cleaning cache files which are automatically created and deleted by most apps, and after you open those apps again, they’ll create new files. Cache cleaning is only really useful in very specific cases or when you uninstall apps. If you want legit apps that do this job then I suggest SD Maid or Ccleaner.
5- Replacement apps
When you don’t like the way an app on your phone works or looks you can just change it, that’s what’s great about android, but it has it’s caveats. Many replacement apps are really REALLY shady, especially ones that deal with your contacts, such as dialer and messaging replacements. Luckily, these can be easily avoided, just check our list of naughty devs and don’t install them if they belong to any of them. Many of these apps spam you with ads, are bloated and sell your data.
The rule of thumb is if it seems impossible or to good to be true then it probably is. If an apps claims to charge your phone faster, give you free movies or put more money on your phone card then they’re probably lying. I wouldn’t really trust Play Store reviews either, they can be easily bought and most users have no idea what they’re talking about. Lastly, and this is more of a quality concern rather than a security concern if an app does too much, then it probably isn’t a very good app, keep your apps separate, if the calculator on your gallery app was any good then it would probably be its own app.