How to spot a bad Android app


Anytime a popular Android app or game is released, you will probably come across some fake clone apps that are designed to trick users by looking like the real thing. These bad apps can abuse your privacy and attempt to send you to phishing web sites. Google has a service codenamed Bouncer that scans Android apps as they are uploaded to Google Play, but no security mechanism is foolproof and bad apps can still slip through this filter.

You should always read permissions before you download an app and it’s wise to have an extra layer of protection like NQ Mobile Security, but there are other ways to spot a phony app before you install it.


1. Look for Google’s “Top Developer” badge

Google awards the most popular developers with a special badge that says “Top Developer.” If you see this distinction featured on an app then you can trust that Google has verified this developer. The absence of the Top Developer badge does not mean that a developer is untrusted or bad, but it lets you know to check other clues to determine an app’s quality before you install it.

2. Check if any of your friends gave the app a +1

Another easy way to see if an app is good or bad is to check if your friends gave the app a “+1.” This is similar to a thumbs up or sign of personal approval. When an app has a bunch of +1’s from people you trust, then it should be OK to install. If you don’t have any friends setup yet, then head over to Google+ and perform a search for Android to locate some popular pages and people that you can follow.

3. Beware of bad review scores

Poor review scores are normally a sign of a bad app. If you find an app that has a majority of 1-star reviews, then proceed with caution. However, don’t just rely on the review score.

4. Scan the reviews and reviewers

Spam accounts can post postive fake reviews of an app, so it is important to scan some of the reviews and the people posting them. If you see a bunch of 5-star one word reviews from accounts with no profile pictures, then this could be a warning sign. A good app should have helpful reviews from genuine user accounts.


5. Consider the date an app was updated

High quality apps are routinely updated. If you find an app that has not been updated for over a year or longer, it could be a sign that it is no longer supported by the developer.

6. Review the developer contact information

Does the developer have a legitimate website? Some bad apps will link to a spam site. Does the developer’s email match the company name? An email address should be the same domain as the developer’s site. A random Gmail or Yahoo! email address might be suspicious. Is the developer transparent and do they provide a link to their privacy policy? A shady developer isn’t concerned with your privacy.

 7. Take into account the total installs

An app with millions of installs should be safe to download. If there were any serious problems, then they likely would have been reported by that time. Look for apps that only have a couple hundred or thousand reviews, and examine the other clues in this list to determine the app’s quality before you install it.

5 thoughts on “How to spot a bad Android app

  1. Nice ! But you forget to talk about permissions, even I personally don’t believe Permission model for Security judgment too ..

  2. Hey Mohit, sorry it has taken us so long to reply to your message—we’re big fans of THN! Thanks for the feedback, permissions are such a challenging topic, and we’re pretty conflicted about them too. Do you prefer the iOS model for security?

  3. Pingback: Safely stay on top of all things Sochi with these 2014 Winter Olympics Android apps | NQ Mobile News

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