Stay Smart about Smartphone App Downloads

BBB Offers 10 Tips for Safer App Downloads
March 24, 2014

Smartphone and mobile applications (apps) can make life easier, placing dozens of useful tools and entertainment choices in the palm of our hand. However, with new apps being developed almost daily, users need to be more conscious about the legitimacy of apps, particularly those that collect or access personal information. Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges consumers to make smart choices when downloading apps, making sure the apps don’t take more information than what is needed to do the job, give unintended permissions, or contain malware.

According to a 2013 Nielsen report on mobile consumers, 62 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. use apps, with social networking app usage being the strongest having 85 percent of smartphone owners as regular users. Maps/navigation/search and productivity apps also rank high in usage, as well as games.

“While apps offer easy access to news, maps and games, it is important to remember that some are created specifically to download malicious software or access personal information for fraud purposes,” said Felicia Thompson, BBB Vice President of Communications. “Before clicking the ‘agree’ button to download, consumers should conduct some research.”

While some apps perform as intended, recent headlines show how problematic apps can be used for fraud. For example, the fake Flappy Bird app took over devices sending messages to premium numbers and causing unwanted charges on the victim’s phone bill. Another—a flashlight app—gathered more information and permissions than consumers understood, deceiving users about how their geo-location information was shared with advertisers and other third parties.


Smartphone users should consider the following 10 tips before downloading apps:

  1. Research companies, apps and developers before downloading apps.

  2. Readprivacy policies before agreeing to theterms and conditions. Understand how your information will be used and secured.

  3. Consider opting out of location sharing. However,  some  apps, like maps and compasses, may require geo-location information in order to work properly.

  4. Check privacy settings on your smartphone and keep them as high as you can without altering the functions of apps.

  5. Update apps when new versions come out. Often, app updates fix problems from earlier versions. However, take the same precautions with updates as you would with new app installations.

  6. Delete apps you no longer use or need.

  7. Stay away from discontinued apps.

  8. Read user reviews before downloading apps.

  9. Download apps through official app stores, not alternative or third- party markets.

  10. Use security and antivirus programs on your smartphone, just as you would on a computer. Search official app stores for reputable anti-virus options.

About BBB of Central, Northern & Western Arizona 
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews® on more than 4.7 million businesses and 11,000 charities, all available free at  Incorporated locally in 1938, BBB Serving Central, Northern and Western Arizona is supported by over 11,400 BBB Accredited Businesses. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business reviews and charity reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.