Have you ever downloaded an app and found that it does something completely different from what you thought? Getting duped is a horrible feeling, and it’s even worse if you’ve wasted money in the process.
Due to the openness of the Google Play Store, many ne’er-do-wells have taken to publishing all sorts of fake apps. Some of these are simply useless, but others are designed to steal your time and cash. Probably the most well-known recent example of this is Virus Shield, a $4 Android antivirus app that did absolutely nothing. People were fooled, however, and the developers made $40,000 before the scam was taken down.
Matt has given tips on how avoid these phony apps, but some examples could also be helpful so you’ll be better prepared to spot fakes as they continue to pop up. This time, we’re going to wade into the stupidest, most useless, scammiest apps that the Play Store has to offer. Enjoy!
Harmless, But Stupid
These apps won’t cause any damage, but aren’t actually doing what they advertise either. They’re often tagged with *JOKE APP* in their description, though not always. Even though they’re not necessarily malicious, it’s important to check the permissions and be aware of any in-app purchases they may contain.
Apps that claim to enable an X-Ray scanner on your phone are silly. No phone has the capability to use X-Rays; they can be harmful and millions of people having that potential in their pockets would be absurd. All these apps do is display a picture of a transparent hand around when you aim it at your own hand, and they generally contain a mountain of ads to boot. With one app, I was asked to rate it 5 stars twice within ten seconds of having it installed — indication of a big problem with Google Play we’ve investigated before.
Before you attempt to become another Dr. Phil and start your own talk show with your Android using these apps, stop and think for a second. Polygraph tests cost over $400 a pop, so how would a free phone app be able to administer the same results? These apps will randomly pick Truth or Lie when you use them; you might as well flip a coin and save yourself from seeing ads.
Instead of crafting your own beer in a geeky fashion, you can just download one of these beer-drinking apps and have as much as you like!
I don’t need to elaborate much here. You obviously won’t be drinking any actual beer out of your phone, and the app’s claim that it’s “so realistic it’ll fool a bartender” is a bunch of hooey. If you’d like to actually try this app on a barkeep, please document your results and report back to us.
Of course, being free apps, these are all loaded with ads, but iBeer even has an in-app purchase if you’re extra-serious about your electronic brews. In exchange for a donation to support this wonderful app, you’ll unlock more beer “flavors” and mouthwash.
Cracking your mobile device’s screen is awful. It’s probably one of the worst tragedies that could befall a phone, so why in the world would you want to simulate that (and advertisements) on your Android? These apps let you “fool your friends,” since everyone gets such a kick out of pretending that their multi-hundred dollar device is messed up.
There’s no good substitute for these apps; just stay away. If you’ve actually broken your phone, Tim has outlined your options on the Apple side of the market, and Christian has you covered on how to replace a damaged screen. The best advice you can take from these apps is to put a good case on your phone and be careful.
Battery life can be less than desired on Android, but luckily there are some definite ways to get more juice. These apps aren’t one of them; how would shaking your device charge your battery in any way? If this phenomenon were possible, you wouldn’t need an app to take advantage of it. Amazingly, people don’t seem to understand that these apps aren’t real. Just look at the reviews:
It’s not all bad, though. Future battery technology may make worrying about daily charges obsolete, which is something to look forward to. If you’re looking to get more out of your existing battery, check out some apps that actually help solve the problem.
Not Only Useless, But Harmful
These apps seem like they provide benefits, but when you look closer, you’ll see that they’ll actually cause problems.
Defragmenting/RAM Boosting Apps
Tina has explained why you need to defragment your computer, with one major caveat: Solid State Drives (SSDs) should never be defragmented! Not only does it fail to improve their speed, it also reduces their life due to the way SSDs are made. As it turns out, cell phones utilize flash memory like an SSD, so they don’t have internal parts as traditional hard drives do.
For this reason, you should avoid apps like Mirocsoft [sic] Total Defrag and Simple Defrag Tablet FREE, as they’re worthless to you. On a similar note, Joel has laid out why RAM boosting apps should be avoided. These have been around since Android’s introduction, and are still sadly used by a multitude of users.
Special note: Installing the Download More RAM app will not actually increase your RAM.
Bad Antivirus Apps
The aforementioned Virus Shield isn’t the only rogue app posing as an antivirus on the Play Store. Android antivirus apps are of questionable worth to begin with, but some go beyond the norm.
Enter NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus, which requires users to pay money to update its databases! This is absolutely absurd conduct, yet the app has a 4.4 star rating and over ten million clients. Reading the reviews will have you shocked in disbelief, both at the fact that this app charges for the most essential function of what an antivirus does, and that people rate this crap highly.
Antivirus programs offering premium versions with extra features is normal, but denying users current virus definitions unless they pay shouldn’t fly. Do yourself a favor and use one of the best free Android antivirus apps if you feel you need one.
Flashlight apps can help you out when you’re caught in the dark for a few moments, but be careful which one you install. Should you search “flashlight” on the Play Store, you might end up with a popular privacy invader, like Brightest Flashlight Free. Look at all the permissions it needs compared to a tame app like Holo Torch:
Why in the world would a flashlight need access to your location to function? It doesn’t — this app was sharing its users’ location with advertisers and spamming those who downloaded it with ads. Clearly even seemingly harmless, essential apps like flashlights can be malevolent, so prudence is key. If you’re looking to detox your phone of permission-heavy apps, Facebook is another with a safe alternative.
Lousy Dating Apps
Online dating is an interesting subject, but it isn’t all bad. What’s important is that you choose a good service to use; Andre has put OkCupid to the test if you’re looking for a free option. Here’s what not to use:
As is the usual with apps and programs, if you choose to pursue online dating you should stick with a well-known site.
Shams such as Real Free Dating on Google Play are anything but free; multiple reviews claimed that as soon as they opened the app and completed a profile they were asked to enter their credit card information. One user said his card was actually debited for $49. Learn from his mistake and steer clear of random dating apps.
Money Earning Apps
Making money online seems like it’s too good to be true, but we’ve shared ways to make it a reality before. While you won’t be raking in six figures, it’s a nice little income on the side. Should you take this road, however, it’s wise to stick with something honorable like writing, programming, or selling your wares. Not Get Paid to Play! (Make Money).
This app is just miserable. Not only are you making pennies for each task you complete, most of them require you to install trash apps or sign up for potentially paid services like GameFly. And with a no-name developer at the helm, who’s to be sure that you’ll even get the money you’ve “earned”?
Barring that, put the time you’d spend watching advertisements for nickels with this app into improving your hidden skills, a much better alternative.
Any Other Scams To Avoid?
Unfortunately, we’ve only taken a glimpse at the trash you’ll encounter on the Play Store. Look a little more and you’ll find a “Hot Girl” detector (seriously?), shady social media boosters that require in-app purchases to use, and apps that claim to translate your baby’s crying.
It’s not all bad, though, as there are some awesome Android apps on Play that you should definitely look into, and if you’re looking to uncover some more seedy Android apps check out Justin’s debunking of net boosters.
Have you ever fallen for a scam app? Which types of apps grind your gears? Leave a comment and start the conversation!