Not all apps are created equal


So, you just got your shiny new Android phone? The world is your oyster and now you want to download apps! After all, who doesn’t want to get Angry Birds® on their phone and start flinging birds at evil pigs right? Slow down, take a deep breath, and hold off on that “Download” button press just a little bit longer. “But I want the app now!” Simmer down and take some time to look over the app you’re about to download.

The reason is simple. There are a fair amount of fake apps in the Google Play Store® (formerly known as the Android Marketplace® ) that could cause some unwanted problems, like a virus infestation, or your personal and sensitive information falling into the hands of someone that could wreak havoc on your very livelihood. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from this happening.

First of all, get to know the developers of your favorite apps. Do a little research on the apps you’re getting ready to download. Two examples of why this is important comes form apps that have been known to have fake versions. The first is Rovio Entertainment LTD’s Angry Birds. If you haven’t played it, it’s a fun, and relatively addicting game where you shoot various types of birds out of a slingshot and try to defeat an “army” of evil pigs. However, multiple fake versions had made their way onto the Google Play Store. A lot of these had intrusive ads pop up, and were constantly trying to get you to enter your personal information. Seeing this alone should make people weary of what it is they’re downloading. While Google has since taken down the fake version of the game down from the store, some reviews still claim there are numerous ads.

Another fake version of a popular app that has surfaced is an app for Netflix®. This app had subtle differences in its look, and to an uninformed person, would probably not look like anything was wrong.

 

The big differences that were a giveaway were first the load screen (Shown Above)

And the login screens. (Shown Below) The loading screen for the real app was full red, big Netflix logo and the loading wheel on the bottom vs the FAKE app’s dark outside edge and “Loading” on the bottom.

 

Also the login screen is a big tip off. The REAL app has the email and password centered with links to either create a new account or retrieve your password found at the bottom of the screen. The fake app had the email and password on the left, w/ a small Sign-in button in the middle.

It’s the subtle differences that can get people. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

  1. Be careful of apps that are just mobile web sites, especially if littered with ads. Truth is, most popular web sites like Facebook and Twiiter have a mobile-optimized version of their sites available. Sites like these are popular to be spammed because they do not take long to make an app that merely links to the mobile version of the site. Of course, any site with a free app offering that has many ads should be approached with caution.
  2. See those Ratings/Reviews? Pay close attention to those. They may just give away the malicious intentions contained within the app you are about to download.
  3. When in doubt, look for the app that has the most downloads. Granted there are always new apps to be discovered, and this may not always ring true, there’s a good chance that you’re on your way to a legit app.
  4. Always check w/ the web site/developer to make sure they have a mobile app available. Best course of action is to either Tweet or even e-mail the company.
  5. Finally, checking the developer’s profile is helpful. Especially if the app you’re looking to get has an “Editor’s Choice” tag next to it. That’s usually a good sign to know that you’ll be safe.

In the wake of the multitude of bad apps, Google has started their “Bouncer” service to help police the Google Play Store, and this has ultimately cut down the number of fake/malicious apps found, but it doesn’t always mean that all of the bad apps are gone. The best thing to do is always ere on the side of caution. The last thing anyone wants is stolen personal data, viruses, or endless amounts of intrusive adds.

Now that you are armed with this information, enjoy that shiny new Android phone. Your world has just opened up to a new level of communication and entertainment.