Whether it’s the latest version of “Candy Crush,” a promising meditation app or a good solution for note-taking, smartphone owners often download more apps than they actually use.
And rather than delete unused apps, people tend to leave them on their phone, thinking that maybe they’ll need them one day.
However, experts warn against the risks and side effects of having too many apps.
According to app analytics firm App Annie, in 2018, the average smartphone user had 95 apps installed, yet they used only 35 of them every month. The rest take up unnecessary storage space, sap battery power and can pose a data security risk.
“When you install apps, you have to be aware that many of them run services in the background,” says Alexander Vukcevic from IT security firm Avira. For example, weather and news apps periodically check weather forecasts and news headlines.
This happens even when the apps aren’t open. If you have a lot of apps carrying out background activity, your phone’s performance and battery life can be adversely affected, Vukcevic says.
Often, users are unaware of what data apps are able to access.
Christian Funk from the IT security firm Kaspersky Labs says that some apps seeks to access data that has nothing to do with their function. “A classic example is the flashlight app, which seeks access to yours contacts,” he says.
This can be dangerous. “If personal information reaches third parties, they can use it with criminal intent,” Funk warns. For example, private contacts could be used to make phishing emails look more authentic and thereby persuade users to click on dubious links in a message.
With that in mind, you should carefully consider the type of access you grant to an app. Some permissions are obviously necessary for the app to do its job. “If I have an app with photo filters, it needs access to my photos,” Funk says.
There is an important difference between Android phones and iPhones in terms of permissions. When installing an app on an Android phone, all permissions have to be granted or the installation is cancelled. In the case of an iPhone, you are asked to approve every individual access request.
For that reason, it’s important on an Android phone to go into “Apps” and “App permissions” in the settings after you install an app. There you can changes the permissions granted as you wish. You can do the same thing on an iPhone under the menu item “Privacy.”
However, some Android developers bypass the permissions system altogether. A study by the US-based International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) found that many apps collect data even though they haven’t been granted access to that data by the user.
“With Android, apps have more ability to access data on the device than on the iPhone,” Vukcevic says.
“A regular inventory is highly advisable,” says Funk. He advises users to delete any app that hasn’t been used in the past month.
Tech coach Stefanie Adam advises evaluating your installed apps for usability, turning off notifications and grouping apps into folders.
One should consider the smartphone as a toolbox, she says — if something isn’t useful, get rid of it. – dpa