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Android users need to be very discriminating while downloading apps

Android users need to be very discriminating while downloading apps

Android users need to be very discriminating while downloading apps.

Since I could not afford a 'smart' TV, I settled for a 'smart' media player for my 'dumb' TV. Like all devices that are considered smart these days, my media player too supports apps - it can play YouTube files as well as hurl angry birds at delinquent pigs. It can open my mail, too.

Nandagopal Rajan
Nandagopal Rajan
What it does not provide, of course, is privacy when I read my mails. My TV, after all, has a 40-inch screen. So, I have not so far bothered to log in to my mail, or my social networks, on the telly. But there are many who are not that conservative.

If only we were as smart as our phones and the apps that run on them. There are millions of apps to choose from, and the question arises: do we choose the right ones for ourselves? Do we have the apps that help us exploit our devices to the fullest?

Sadly, the answer to both will be in the negative. I know people who own phones worth `30,000 or even more, but haven't heard of an app store. They are quite happy paying a hefty premium to instal capacity that will wither away sooner than later.

Then there are people who go to the other extreme and fill their devices with so many apps it becomes difficult for the device to carry out even basic functions without freezing every other minute. Ever heard of App Killer? One of the most popular apps for Android phones, it simply shuts down apps that are not needed at the moment. Wouldn't we all be much more organised if we stuck to just the apps we love and left some breathing space for the devices to run? If only there was an app to guide us in doing so.

Now, we all love freebies, and if research firm Gartner's calculations are correct, free apps will account for 89 per cent of all mobile app store downloads in 2012 - that is about 40 billion apps. But is the stuff really free? The free apps are either full of ads or take their pound of flesh by extracting personal information from users. Apparently, this information sells at a premium, giving the app makers a good revenue stream. Of course, there are decent app developers too, and you will find a good number of them on the Apple App Store, which does a great job of checking out products before putting them on its shelves.

But Android is an entirely different story. Being an open source platform, it is a free-for-all on the Google Play Store. Anyone can put anything on its shelves, and while it may not get the best display, the rogue stuff has this tendency of ending up on your device. Just carry out a search of the costliest Android apps to get a better idea. The top 10 apps on this list, most priced around $199, are fakes, just made to dupe you of your money.

While most people won't fall for them, there will always be one or two who actually go through with the billing, and that is all these developers want. Worse are apps that carry malware - some try to corrupt your system, while others just sit there and spy on you, stealing important personal information for their agent provocateurs.

There are many ways to find the genuine apps, but most users usually don't bother. Given a choice between a free and a paid app, they would just go for the former without even thinking what the catch might be. Very often, the free apps - from games to creativity - make you go for in-app purchases, mostly for silly things that aren't worth a penny.

The conclusion: Android users are better off downloading their apps from stores set up by service providers or phones makers. That way you are assured of a degree of security and will get the apps that are best suited for your device.

The writer is Associate Editor, Gadgets & Gizmos