Android owners know that the Google Play Store is the place to visit when in need of virtually any kind of app. From games to personal day planners, the store has almost everything you might imagine.
However, there are times when an app is unavailable or is only distributed by the developer. This scenario entices people to venture out of the safe confines of the Google Play Store and into the world of third-party app sources.
Is this practice safe? Well, many would immediately say no. When the topic of third-party apps comes up, you hear stories of malware, data loss, and viruses. While some are likely truth, others are tales that have been spun around many times.
If you find yourself in the position where you need to decide whether to download an app from outside the Google Play Store, make an informed choice. Use the following lists of pros and cons to weigh your options.
Reasons to Use an Outside App Source
Third-party apps have certainly gotten a bad reputation because they sometimes contain harmful malware or viruses. But it may be unfair to decide that all these apps are bad. There are several reasons why an app may be unavailable on the Google Play Store but still suitable for download.
- Job Specific Apps – Companies often develop apps that are only available to their employees. In many cases, these types of applications are unavailable on the public Google Play Store. Obviously, downloading directly from the company is generally safe.
- Regionally Restricted Apps – Many apps are only available in certain countries. There are instances where the app is unavailable on Google Play but is ready to download from a third-party source. This means that you have to decide if the app is worth the risk of downloading it from an unreliable source.
- Apps Blocked by Google – Google requires app developers to follow certain rules if they want to see their app on the Google Play Store. Some do not obey those rules, which results in the app only being available directly from the creator or a third-party source.
- Trial Period – Some apps are only available for purchase in the Google Play Store. Free versions of the same apps might be found on a third-party app store. While not 100% functional, these can allow for a test run before committing to the paid version.
- Developers’ Preference – Some app developers prefer to make their apps available from multiple sources. This could be done for advertising purposes or because of the developers’ values. So it is unfair to assume that one of these apps should be considered unsafe.
Reasons to Avoid an Outside App Source
Just as there are reasons to feel comfortable with apps downloaded from third-parties, there are some legitimate concerns as well. Every argument on this list should be considered before deciding if it is safe to download from a source other than the Google Play Store.
- Viruses Do Exist – While it’s unfair to assume that every app from anywhere other than the Google Play Store is tainted, it must be understood that viruses are out there. If you download an app from Google, it runs a scan to ensure it is safe. Downloads from a third-party are often devoid of this step, which can lead to vulnerability.
- Malware is On the Rise – Symantec, a popular digital security company, has released data that might be disturbing to Android users. The variety of malware has risen over 50% in just one year. Malicious apps distribute much of this malware.
- Financial Loss – If a third-party store is requesting payment for an app, you may want to think twice (or more) about giving them your financial details. You could be receiving fraudulent apps or worse, have your information stolen.
- Hacking Is Real – A virus is bad but being hacked is worse. An app that looks and acts normal could be providing a gateway for hackers to access your Android smartphone. It could be used to steal your contacts, photographs, or other personal data.
There are multiple reasons why third-party app stores could be safe and unsafe. It sounds confusing at first, but users must take everything into account before downloading an app outside of the Google Play Store.
As previously noted, it is unfair to make blanket statements that all third-party app sources are malicious or riddled with viruses. However, it would be wise to consider what could go wrong if the app is tainted. Therefore it is advisable to use a VPN such as this one. A second layer of protection can’t hurt, especially if you are going to visit websites you can’t trust.
At the end of the day, security can be ensured by a proper decision-making process. Taking the time to evaluate the source and weigh up some of the pros and cons will pay off in the long run. With a little care, downloading apps from sources other than the Google Play Store can be safe.