Have you recently browsed through your installed apps and noticed that you still have Pokémon Go on there even though you haven’t opened it for months? Chances are that it’s not the only errant or forgotten app in your smartphone. Don’t worry, this behavior of collecting and casually forgetting about older or less used mobile apps is not a localized problem. In fact, Google has noticed it as well and believed that it could do a better job at helping Android users manage the apps in their phones. Scrolling through a seemingly endless list of mobile apps, then entering each app to uninstall it, only to return to the main list to continue to the hunt for wayward apps seems like a daunting task, and for many it is. It takes time, patience and attention, all the things that users these days seem to possess very little of.
To this end, Google has recently released a major update to the Play Store, giving users more control than ever to their “My apps & games” section. They have enacted certain changes in the interface and navigation to make it easier for users to interact with and manage their various downloaded mobile apps regardless if they are installed or uninstalled. Users will notice that the look of the “My apps & games” area received a much needed, if not utilitarian, overhaul. The previous design was rounder and featured large icons, but the names and icons took up a lot of screen real estate. This meant that it took a significant amount of time to scroll through all the various apps. However, the new design has split the mobile apps into three tabs; Updates, Installed and Library.
Google has given users the ability to sort through their apps. This makes finding, identifying and acting on apps that much easier. Users can now sort their apps alphabetically, size, last updated and last used. Sorting alphabetically helps users find apps faster, while sorting by size can help them manage apps that may be using up too much hard drive or internal resources, a good feature to have when users find that they are running out of space. A last updated sort will allow users to see which of their apps needs updating. But, it is the “last used” sort that will definitely help with app management. By simply using that sort, users can see which apps they haven’t used in a while and can easily uninstall them from their phone.
When it comes to the updating mobile apps, the new interface makes the process that much simpler. In the old days, a user had to access each and every app in order to approve an update (unless they set it to auto-update). Now a user is given a dedicated list of apps that need updating and they can scroll down choose which ones they would like to update with nothing more than a single tap.
The Library tab replaced the All tab and makes it easy for users to quickly install apps to their phone, without being buried in an unending list of apps, names, and thumbnails. Let’s face it, the All tab could have been renamed the “Catch-All” tab since it contained the footprint of every single app that is currently or was previously installed. It was a nightmare to deal with and users everywhere will be rejoicing at what is a cleaner and more efficient setup.
In general, all mobile app lists are more compact. Yes, the font is smaller but still very much legible, as such Google can fit more apps on the screen at any given time. The condensed layout means less scrolling, and that means that there is a decreased likelihood that an app will be left unnoticed. Users may also notice that they “Beta” tab remains untouched and still houses all the downloaded Beta build apps.
On a slightly different note, Google has made it known that they have removed the seemingly harmless app named “System Update”. The apps name makes it seem like it is a benign, and even helpful, systems tool. However, further investigation has revealed that it was a vector for spyware, which is a scary thought. But, what is of more concern was that the app was downloaded over 5 million times. You read that correctly, that means that there are at least 5 million infected devices all around the globe thanks to this mobile app, which came online in 2014. According to investigators the app collected device location data as well as incoming SMS messages.
The spyware, known as SMSVova, lays dormant within the “System Update” app and then springs into action when downloaded. It targets inbound SMS messages then uses it to change passwords and system settings. The user is left unawarer since the app would feign malfunction the moment it was downloaded, leaving the user to either uninstall or ignore the app, and by then it is too late.
Apps like System Update and the SMSVova spyware prey upon the user’s behavior, to collect and then forget apps. Such behavior, leads to exposure and risks, but often without the user knowing about it at all. System Update didn’t really hinder the user’s ability to perform tasks on their phone, but rather it sat there, waited and collected data. Unassuming users that didn’t audit or thin out the growing number of apps in their libraries would never know that a malevolent app was in their midst.
Cases like System Update underscores the importance of Android recent update to the Play Store. Let’s face it, no one is excited to clean out their app libraries, just like how no one is excited to clean out their bedrooms. But the fact remains that it needs to be done, and done regularly. Who knows what might be festering in the dark recesses of app libraries. The revisions made to the Play Store makes it possible and easy for users to conduct this would as little pain as possible.
And what does it all mean for mobile app developers and companies? The new filters of the Google Play Store mean that developers and app owners will need to focus on their marketing strategy so people keep using their app after they download it. It might be hard task, but nowadays it is not enough to have downloads and installs, but to keep the audience connected with your app daily to be successful.