Don’t Miss this Serious Warning about Downloading Android Apps Not in the Play Store!

Written by Felipe on September 27th, 2012

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The Android OS has always been considered “open source”. If you’re not familiar with this term, allow me to enlighten you. Makers of open source software embrace the philosophy that all software should be free for people to use. In Google’s case, the software to develop applications is actually free to download and use. You used to download apps from a site called “Android Market” but Google has since changed the name to “Google Play”.

How Developers Get Their Apps In Google Play

It’s very easy to get your app included in Google Play if you are an app developer. All you have to do is pay a one time $25 “application developers registration fee”, agree to the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement, and you can upload your app to the Google Play.

How Developers Get Their App In The Apple Apps Store

It’s a bit more difficult for an app developer to have their app included in the Apple Apps Store. All programs that get included in the Apps Store are closely scrutinized by Apple.

Many people prefer the Apple iOS because it is build a bit differently than the Android OS. The Apple iOS is designed so that no apps have the ability to alter anything on the device. This is known as being “sandboxed”. The apps can run on Apple devices but they aren’t free to modify other apps or files on the device that is running the Apple iOS. This is the main reason that there have been relatively few attempts to develop viruses for these devices.

Why Do More Android Apps Have Viruses?

Now let’s take a look at the Android OS. Apps that are run on Android are not “sandboxed” and the developer is free to design them to have permission to access and modify other files on the device. It might be possible for a slime ball developer to hide a virus or some form of malware inside a seemingly harmless application. This is why it’s a good idea to run some kind of security software on your Android powered devices. The software I use is called Lookout Mobile Security. They have a free version as well as a premium version. The premium version offers more protection and features for only $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year.

Benefits Of Getting Your Apps In the Google Play Site

One benefit of only using apps that you get from the Google Play website is that Google has a rating system in place. If someone uploads an app that causes problems for it’s users, they will quickly report the problem to Google and the app will be removed from the Google Play if it is determined to contain malicious code.

Why Don’t All Developers Put Their Apps In Google Play?

There are some app developers who are mavericks and they don’t want to pay $25 fee or allow Google to have any control over their app so they attempt to distribute their apps outside of the Google Play site. While many of these apps are safe, they don’t benefit from the huge number of people providing feedback about the usefulness or stability of the software. The way I see it, Android apps not in on Google Play pose an even greater risk because there aren’t any safeguards or rating systems in place at all. Every single person who downloads the app may get a virus but since there isn’t any governing organization such as the Google Play to report the problem to, you won’t have any way of knowing that the app is actually dangerous.

Do I Use Apps That Aren’t In The Google Play?

The only times I’ve downloaded any Android Apps not in the Google Play site was when I downloaded the Swype Beta keyboard and I only felt comfortable doing this because the developer is well known and trusted. I didn’t have any problems with it at all but I wouldn’t feel comfortable downloading just any old app from a site that didn’t have a very good reputation.

I guess I should say that I wouldn’t feel comfortable downloading “free” apps that aren’t in Google Play. Oftentimes people who are trying to put malicious code on your phone will attempt to lure you in with free apps. Those who are charging for their apps generally want to protect their reputation so they are unlikely to put harmful code in them. I guess the main thing that you need to determine is whether the source can be trusted or not before you go wildly downloading apps from just anyone.

The ultimate decision of whether or not to download non Google Play Android Apps is up to you. Whether you get your apps from the Google Play or not, I strongly advise that you use a good security tool on all of your Android powered devices and configure some form of automated backup utility so that you can always retrieve the precious data that you keep on your smartphone should your phone become infected.

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