Mobile Monday: Keeping Junk Apps Off Your Phone

Flashlight Apps

In previous articles we’ve talked about keeping your computer safe from malware and from excess apps and files that can slow down your performance. What we haven’t talked much about before is the best way to protect your phone. The truth is that while your phone is safer from malware than your PC in many ways, you still need to be careful about what you download, and be aware of what certain apps are doing with your data.

Malware

Now, you may be thinking, “can my phone really get a virus?” The answer is “yes, but…” While there are legitimate malware threats out there that can infect your phone, there aren’t many programs that really infect your phone the way malware infects your computer. This is especially true for iPhones, since Apple’s “walled garden” development philosophy heavily restricts the access third party apps have to the device’s basic functions.

So, in other words, malware for phones does exist, but most of the time the threats to your phone are going to come from apps that misuse your data or that interfere with your user experience in some unpleasant way (usually by causing ads to pop up on your phone or trying to trick you into downloading other apps).

Pay Attention to Permissions

The first thing you need to look out for if you want to protect yourself from junk apps on your phone is apps that request permissions that don’t seem to have anything to do with their function. Why does that Solitaire app need access to location services? What does a flashlight app need with your contact list? A lot of these apps will ask for access to information stored in your phone that has nothing to do with the app’s purpose. Now, to be fair, the fact that an app asks for access to information it doesn’t need isn’t necessarily an indication that something nefarious is going on, or that the app’s developer is stealing and selling your data. But whether they’re misusing your data or not, it’s generally best not to give an app permission to access anything that isn’t directly relevant to its function.

Speaking of flashlight apps, you should probably just avoid them entirely. These days both iOS and Android have built-in ways to turn on the LEDs on your camera, so flashlight apps are entirely redundant, and while many of them are probably innocent, why risk the chance that one will misuse its access to your system?

Beware of System Cleaner Apps

Another kind of app you should probably avoid is the kind that claims to clean up your system and improve your phone’s performance. A lot of these apps promise to clean up cached data left behind by deleted apps or to improve your RAM usage by closing apps that are running in the background, all in the name of improving your phone’s performance and battery life. The truth is, though, that these apps aren’t actually doing you any good. When they’re running they use system resources just like any other app, just to do things that you don’t need an app for. You can clear out leftover data from old apps on your Android phone in just a couple taps in Settings, and both iOS and Android do a fine job of managing RAM usage without any help from a third party app.

To make matters worse, a lot of these apps display ads when you’re using them, which means they’re not just using your phone’s battery and other system resources, they might also be using up your cellular data. Some of them can even get pretty invasive with their ads, and some try and convince you to download other apps that can be similarly invasive.

So, to sum up, your phone’s operating system generally does a pretty good job of keeping itself optimized, and it does it without using extra system resources or impeding your user experience with ads like many optimizer apps do, so your best bet is to just avoid this kind of app.

At Phone Medics + PC, we don’t just want to be here for you when your phone breaks. We want to make sure you have the best experience with your phone you can. If you’re having problems with your phone, bring it to us at 91 E. Merritt Island Causeway in Merritt Island and we’ll help you get it taken care of.