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Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?

Posted: , by Ray S.

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Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?
The problem with Android app piracy seems to be escalating lately, with more and more developers expressing their negative opinion towards the platform's little to no protection against this problem.

App piracy on Android is nothing new. The percentage of pirated apps versus bought ones has always been higher on Android than on iOS, and developers have not once brought this issue to the public's attention. Up until now, this was something that devs put up with. They didn't expect wonders from Android, because Android seemed more like a work in progress, rather than a finished product. This was until Ice Cream Sandwich came into the scene.

Growing up

With Android 4.0 ICS, the OS suddenly started to feel complete. It got rid of its old, ugly clothes, put on a stylish suit and became much more faster and smoother. The newest version, 4.1, is building on this already strong foundation. However, while Google managed to make significant progress with the OS itself, thanks to clever and talented guys like Matias Duarte, it looks like the app ecosystem is currently trailing behind. We know that good-looking and polished apps are more than possible on Android, but the majority of apps are still quite amateurish, at least in terms of their design. Maybe that's because developers don't think the investment is worth it?

Game developer MadFinger, which is responsible for hit titles like ShadowGun and Dead Trigger, recently came out with a statement complaining of the "giant" piracy rate for its latest game, which eventually forced it to offer it for free, instead of with a price of $0.99. Apparently, 1 buck was too much for some people to pay for one of the hottest games on Google Play. Another developer, Matt Gemmell, who makes a living as an iOS and OS X dev, says that the high piracy levels on Android are ultimately due to the platform's extreme openness. He even goes as far as to say that "Android is designed for piracy." Of course, what this means is that the way things stand currently, it's way too easy to pirate apps for the platform.

Many Android-defenders would say that you can also install pirated apps on iOS. That's true, but have you actually tried to do it? The process requires you to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, which isn't very easy these days even for people who are into technology, let alone for the regular customers. Actually, a normal user (read: non-geek), would never even think about jailbreaking their device. It's that complicated (for a normal user). The thing is that there's absolutely no way you can install a pirated copy of an app without having your iDevice jailbroken. On the other hand, with Android, you only have to go to Settings -> Security -> check Unknown sources. And you're ready to go. You can simply find a pirated app copy using Google search, download it to your computer, copy it over to your mobile device's mass storage, and then execute it. Alternatively, you can just find and download it using your Android device's browser, and then execute it. Congrats, you have installed your pirated app. No rooting required, no jailbreaking. It's like app piracy has been built into the system from the get go.

At PhoneArena, we've been expecting Google to get rid of that option with every new release, but it's still sticking around. The problem with this is that Android is no longer the OS for geeks it once was. It now has a lot of market share, and a lot of normal users are buying Android devices, because they like a particular model, or need a slightly more affordable device, or something like that. This means that there's real opportunity for developers to make money on Android, but they don't, because it's so easy to install apps without having to actually pay for them.

Closing Android (is not evil)

The solution to all this seems quite simple to us - get rid of the option that allows you to install apps from sources other than the Google Play store. Of course, Android is open and tech-savvy people will quickly find a workaround for that, but in case Google tries hard to make this workaround complicated enough, the vast majority of users will never bother to implement the workaround. As a result, people will just stick to getting their apps from the Play Store. Still, Google is yet to make this move, and there are no indications that it's going to happen anytime soon.

We are aware that such a transition will be hard at first, and probably many hardcore Android users (those who helped Android pick up speed) will be pissed off, but the question is, should Google bother about those users? Google has always tried to be good to its customers, to not be evil, but now this kind of generosity is going against its own ecosystem. Developers are getting hurt financially, and are finding it increasingly hard to stay afloat due to this whole "open", and "don't be evil" mantra. Google will not become evil, if it closes that part of Android that makes piracy so easy. As a matter of fact, it should feel obliged to do so, because these devs are the same devs that made Android a worthwhile experience.

With all this in mind, here's a question for you:

Phonearena polls
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Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?
494 votes
(494 votes) Yes, app piracy shouldn't be that easy on Android.
1146 votes
(1146 votes) No, I like my freedom.

1640 votes

  • Options

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:41 33

1. loken (Posts: 462; Member since: 09 May 2012)

"No I Like my Freedom"

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 07:08 16

46. Firedrops (Posts: 249; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)

Yeah. How am I supposed to test my apps on my phone if I can't sideload them? I probably can't used my personalized versions either, even if the original app is free.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 09:13 6

65. buccob (Posts: 2566; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)

I also voted for this.

I have to admit that I have sideloaded pirate apps, such as Apparatus to try it first.. and then I bought it full price ($6.99)

Grand Theft Auto 3 is not available in my country and I was more than willing to pay for it. So I also sideloaded that, but only after trying to reach Rockstar to open the game worldwide, but I got no reply.

It is a matter of education and consciousness about what you are given and what you should give in return to devs.

If I like an app and consider that it is worth what you pay for, then I pay for it... but I have come across some expensive apps (cough Aftermath cough) that really disappoint, or lack compatibility, and I feel ripped.

I am not in favor of piracy, but depriving our freedom does not fix the issue.

Apps like Power Amp have a good anti-piracy check system.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 13:21 2

79. crankyd00d (Posts: 191; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)

Where's the option "I have bought 100+ Apps and it wouldn't be fair for me to get my freedom compromised because of the cheap parasite assholes" lol
Freedom ftw

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 14:02 2

82. aikonix (Posts: 60; Member since: 08 Apr 2012)

couple of things here i want to express...

first of all, developers can create some sort of valid authentication license in their app that requires the proof of purchase, i have seen this on some games.

also, second off, i personally believe developers should give out more "trials" like play this game up to level 5 and if u want up to level 25 u have to buy it. things like that would make a big deal to a lot of people.

and thirdly, yes, google should have google play store gift cards that u can buy everywhere like u can itunes cards.

just my 2 cents

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 07:46 1

106. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

seems like a great way to improve the system we all share and love. as for the iOS crowd I have bought apps that work and when the system was updated the app never was it became a pile of code sitting on my iDevice. i feel like the Play store has a better communication system between devs and users. anyway Google Play Gift Cards sound like a great way of changing the landscape of Android.

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 07:00 1

101. jroc74 (Posts: 6005; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

I agree.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:45 21

2. deacz (Posts: 162; Member since: 02 Nov 2011)

yea wow horrible idea, lets remove the main reason to go with andriod...idiots

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:58 12

34. absolete (Posts: 12; Member since: 04 Apr 2012)

Yea keep android open, if you lock everything up you'll end up with iOS... YUCK haha

What they should do is those verification checks! In Kairosoft's software such as mega mall story even if you get a pirate apk, it wont work because it has to be verified by the play store... Trust me, I tried :P I think a system like that would be much better

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:51 20

3. denied911 (banned) (Posts: 361; Member since: 31 May 2012)

open source is open source, you can't delete the option

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:53 6

4. Ray.S (Posts: 329; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

Won't Android remain open-source, if you can't install apps downloaded from random websites?

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:31 6

24. SonyFTW2020 (Posts: 311; Member since: 03 May 2012)

Wow people are stupid! its not taking away the freedom of android its just removing the piracy off of random websites... you will still be able to customize your phone the way you want and still download apps from the google play store....Did any of you read this article correctly?? removing the piracy will help the devs make a more confined and mature platform...they are in no way trying to make us like apples ios(restricted) if thats what everyone here is thinking..

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:53 11

31. nyuvo (Posts: 72; Member since: 10 May 2012)

Exactly, as much as everybody likes the idea of having free apps.. I would rather piracy was limited to say those who root their phones (as with jailbreak) and have a tighter system. This would bring the overall quality of apps up as more money would be given to developers.

Of course I guess people are just to tight to spend $1 on an app, when the truth is, its really not that much money.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 06:13 4

36. SonyFTW2020 (Posts: 311; Member since: 03 May 2012)

well if an app is average and has average feed back letting everyone know that its an "ok" game, then you shouldn't have to pay a dollar for it. But if the app has a lot of popularity and is a really good game, then we should give credit where credit is due right?

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 11:45 3

75. MobileCaseReview (Posts: 242; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)

App devs should be allowed to earn a living off their work many users are enjoying regardless of OS. My econ professor always said, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch". The question to your statement is, would you constantly spend time developing a game without earning wages just so everyone can enjoy it, even if it's rated as average?

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 07:40

104. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

as in my previous post. If a developer had a Encryption system drm like that google can develope it would not really matter if you download that app by side-loading it won't work because it can't be authenticated thus allowing dev's to show there true skill set and for dev's that offer there apps through direct download link(i.e. Netflix, and Opera) it would not be affected as there app would be designed in a way that side-loading would be possible therefore a great solution is found.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:53 16

5. smallworld (Posts: 484; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)

OMG this is such a dumb poll since you perfectly know that 80% of people are going to vote NO !!!

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 06:19

100. Darkerm (Posts: 308; Member since: 31 Jan 2012)

Great Comment Mate ;)

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:54 21

6. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

I had to answer with the option that led to decreased piracy.

I would prefer for Android to remain as open as possible, but there has to be a way Google can discourage piracy without killing the openness of the platform.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:56 12

8. Ray.S (Posts: 329; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

Thumbs up for that, you've made the right choice.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:05 14

15. PackMan (Posts: 277; Member since: 09 Mar 2012)

And who are you to decide what is right and what is wrong for someone else?
The answer to the above question is NO.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:12 12

17. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

The question itself isn't flexible enough. No one who uses Android wants it closed off, but people like me feel that the devs should be rewarded for the hard work they put into their programs.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:20 13

20. Ray.S (Posts: 329; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

The thing is, if people actually bother to read the article, they will notice that I don't say Google should close Android, but simply close that part of it that allows users to install pirated apks so easily.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:26 19

22. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

I understood the article just fine. However, the poll question itself is written poorly. Sideloading can be useful for purposes other than piracy; what Google needs to do is have a process that reads newly installed software to see if it matches three conditions: 1) is it on Google Play? 2) is it a "paid" app or free one? 3) if it's a "paid" app, is it on the list of apps that the user has paid for?

If the first two conditions are met but not the third, then the device simply blocks the use of that app with a message asking them to buy the official version.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:37 14

25. SonyFTW2020 (Posts: 311; Member since: 03 May 2012)

wow someone with brains and can actually read...Phone Arena please give this man an award....seriously cause majority of people here did not understand this article...LOL

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 07:01 3

44. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4833; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)

Yes I was going to say the same thing. On Android is way too easy to load a pirated app. Look at Dead Trigger. Google needs to protect the developers & make a new system so it can't be so EASY to side load a pirated app.

To remove that feature all together is not the answer, Google has to get on the ball & finally address this issue.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:53 4

32. kanagadeepan (Posts: 922; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)

Very TRUE sir... Google should allow to side-load FREE apps and my old purchased apps... Thats much much better than firing a house to kill the bl00dy rats...

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 07:22 2

49. Aeires (unregistered)

Or the app itself can have a verification process. Every time I buy a new device or root, I have to verify Documents To Go the first time I launch it. A one time verification isn't going to kill anyone.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 07:24 3

50. protozeloz (Posts: 5396; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)

there is a piracy protection method ON the android market.... and is kinda similar to that.... but some devs are quite lazy in implementing the method

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 07:57

109. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

your right and with it was introduce with jelly bean but is compatible with the latest Google play store.. I Knew I saw that somewhere. Google has had there Engineers working on a solution.

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 07:54

108. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

like that solution reminds me of iRobot haha rothl.. Agreed..

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 06:23 8

38. TylerGrunter (Posts: 1522; Member since: 16 Feb 2012)

I wonder if you understand the consequences of your own article. Do you realize that you are asking to close the Amazon Appstore and all the other alternative stores?
That means no freedom to install ANYTHING than Google (like Apple does) finds it should not be in the store, which leads to easy censorship.
Now Google is not censoring much (they do some), but what ensures you that they won't do in the future if you close the system?

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 07:00 2

43. Twashbush (Posts: 47; Member since: 08 Jun 2011)

Ray there is a problem with that, It would kill the amazon app store and other such app markets for android because they require that option

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 07:52

107. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

Ray your word close is giving the wrong impression. solution should have been used instead. also Great Dev's should be rewarded that's not the problem but there are better solutions.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 06:53 1

42. roscuthiii (Posts: 2217; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

Oh, so is this more of an opinionated editorial than an objective poll then? I didn't know there was a correct answer intended here.

Now, from this point on, I'm afraid I'm going to have to call you out on every piece of BS that falls off your fingertips onto the pages of PA.
Time to put on my troll hat, drink up the haterade, and whip out the red pen.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:55 1

7. tiara6918 (Posts: 2036; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

My answer for that question is no. But if you ask me a question relating about piracy with these apps/games, I think they should think of a way to get rid of it. I can see that the app developers are not being treated equally enough despite their hardwork and effort in making these things. However, if google still doesn't want to remove the option to sideload apps, I think the best thing they can do is to stop piracy. By the way, the reason that I answered no is because there are other apps that are made aside from the ones present in google play(like samsung apps,etc)and this would be a good opportunity on manufacturers to create something exclusively for their handsets.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:02 4

12. Ray.S (Posts: 329; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

If manufacturers want to give you an app they have made, they simply pre-load it on their devices, no need to download it separately. For those few manufacturer/carrier apps that are offered as downloads, I think they can simply offer them through the Play Store. They won't be available to users of different carriers/manufacturers, because they will be configured to show up only for those devices running on their own network/models.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:28 3

23. infernal88 (Posts: 113; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

but one thing u miss ...to download and install an app from " samsung apps " i have to check on unknown sources in the settings ... if it isnt there how would i get things from other markets :/ other than playstore

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:57 6

9. droidnator (Posts: 87; Member since: 10 Mar 2011)

Open source equals Freedom. We like to have a choice. Removing an option is removing a part of freedom! "No I Like my Freedom" !

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:58 5

10. sid07desai (Posts: 290; Member since: 03 May 2012)

The reason why most of the people are going for Android rather than iOS is because they don't have to pay for apps. They can just download the .apk files and their done. If Google do anything to make this go away, they are no different than Apple.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 04:59 7

11. wendygarett (unregistered)

Matt, the ios dev never appreciate the beauty of android ( choice )

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:05 7

14. Ray.S (Posts: 329; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

There's beauty in software piracy? Sideloading pirated apps and having choice, the ability to customize the OS, etc. are two very, very different things.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:48 6

28. SonyFTW2020 (Posts: 311; Member since: 03 May 2012)

hahahah yes it is my friend sadly people here think the devs are trying to strip them of something when they are actually trying to help and get the credit they deserve....All the simple and average games should remain free on the google play store BUT the ones that are popular and good should definitely be worth paying for there hard work....simple and plain

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 08:05 1

110. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

trust me even on iOS there is people that think that way. Just look at the in app purchase bug. People who took advantage of it did. Even the hacker knows that things like that can be fixed by software updates. Android play store gets update no matter what version of Android. iOS to my Knowledge is updated during a platform update but if it was independent of the platform it would already have been a different story for that in app-purchase bug.

posted on 29 Jul 2012, 03:54

114. upetro (Posts: 4; Member since: 28 Jul 2012)

Not every sideload is piracy! If i buy an app(either Playstore or the internet) i should be able to share it with who I want! What you are suggesting will prevent me from doing so, because the person I want to share it with wont be able to install the app, since he didnt buy the app, but I did! If i buy something i sure as hell am making the decision to share!

posted on 29 Jul 2012, 07:40

115. Paximos (Posts: 158; Member since: 26 Jul 2012)

So, do you share your grocieries with your neighboor and friends too..Just because YOU paid for it??

posted on 30 Jul 2012, 09:16 1

116. upetro (Posts: 4; Member since: 28 Jul 2012)

Of course i do! but it is my decision with whom i want to share them!!! I can also share my car with whoever I want, since I bought it! Get it!

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:03 1

13. MeoCao (unregistered)

Google in fact does not make much money from apps, at least for now. Android is important to Google as a marketing and data gathering tool so Google wants to put Android into as many gadgets as possible. And Google is never active in fighting piracy b-c that may limit the reach of their search service and data gathering.

posted on 27 Jul 2012, 08:09

111. OSFantasma (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)

I don't think you fully understand Google. Ideas like the one you have are a part of the problem when comes to OS Developers as well as App Developers. Google does offer the best the both worlds if app developers went to I/O this year they would know of the great options google has for them and the strides Google is making to better the relationship with them..

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:05 6

16. nadar.bsm (Posts: 32; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)

i am an Android fan.. like open source envoirnment... still there should be some control so that mis-use or hurt someone very bad in their finance is not a good practice....

so I say Yes.. Google should take this step to keep the developers for the OS....

installing the 3rd party app is possible through root.. so if u root the device then install it... dont give such functions on it core OS...

I know I will get may dislikes for this but this still is my opinion...

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:13 3

18. kindkin (Posts: 9; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)

Seriously, you say that most iDevice user didnt know how to jailbreak for their device? Well, in my country, almost all of my friends have jailbroken their device, even my cousin who is not a tech geek also has her device jailbroken. So... Jailbreaking iDevice isn't that hard as you think!

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 08:30

57. TimTebow (Posts: 70; Member since: 14 Feb 2012)

Probably not a 1st world country....

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:16 2

19. Mitchel (Posts: 228; Member since: 25 May 2012)

I voted yes..

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:24 2

21. OHaZZaR (Posts: 131; Member since: 19 Aug 2011)

Actually, Jailbreaking iOS devices isn't difficult at all. Pirating is also much easier as well than on android. The reason many wouldn't jailbreak is because the warranty would be void, truth is anyone with access to youtube can easily jailbreak their iOS device it's several times easier than rooting as well.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:40 11

26. kanagadeepan (Posts: 922; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)

I have ZERO pirated apps in all my Android phones and tablets... I have purchased 92 PAID APPS from PlayStore in last one year (Not only the 1$ ones).

I vote for "NO.. I like my Freedom"... Reasons being some apps works better in their old version than their updated ones in PlayStore... Eg:- Old RootChecker FREE app has now less features than the latest RootChecker... Also one developer started showing Ads on NOTIFICATION Bar, instead of in-app... I use the old FREE app backup now... AM I A PIRATE???

Even old PAID app (purchased by me) Plants Vs Zombies has support on GameOn (purchased paid app for storing and retrieving scores) and NOT the new one (for ICS optimisations, they changed many things in new version)... So if I use their old app in my new phone, AM I A PIRATE????

Also old PLAYSTORE app has an option showing PURCHASED PAID apps as NOT INSTALLED, that will be very useful in changing to a new phone... I have installed that OLD PlayStore app (via apk file) as system app (via PURCHASED RootExplorer), so that I can install my paid apps fast in my new phone... AM I A BL00DY PIRATE????

SO it is Total BS to close that method...

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:53 3

29. SonyFTW2020 (Posts: 311; Member since: 03 May 2012)

you have a good point and it makes alot of sense in the way you explain it....and if it means losing certain abilities and the convience of certain apps then yes i agree completely with you

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 06:02 4

35. Ray.S (Posts: 329; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

You know what most people use app sideloading for, and it's not to fix software version incompatibilities.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 06:42 4

41. roscuthiii (Posts: 2217; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

Wow, what a lame response from a PA writer. Kanagadeepan brought up a valid point, and you go all miffed ex-girlfriend on him (or her). Please Ray, take an extended vacation, see a proctologist, and have that stick removed.
Face it, one of the main reasons Android was so embraced was it's open nature. Think of it just like the internet. Shut down any file sharing site you like (aka pirate) and 2 more will pop up. So, let's say Google does shut down side-loading apps, there are people out there with the skills and motivation to maintain the rooted device movement. And, as with anything else, the more restrictive things get, the more rebellious those restricted will be. I'd bet you anything the numbers of rooted devices would skyrocket.
That's the nature of the beast. Been that way since rhetorical Eve ate the metaphorical apple.
Also, lest you forget, Android is open source. Anyone can do anything they like with it... up to and including leaving out integration with the Play Store. Leaving it completely open to 3rd party app stores, again.

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 15:49 2

84. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)

yep thats like saying all people that jailbreak and root is to get free games and free tethering..until real statistics come from these apparent high piracy we cant really tell how bad it is. what most people dont tech into consideration is that not all the people that pirates apps,movies,music etc are loss sales because its not 100% that they would have brought product x. i have like many have tried pirated apps and if i like it i will actually buy it because it is more convenient to get updates from play store than waiting for the app to be cracked again..lol its funny how PA is condeming piracy when i have seen installous which is the pirate app store for iphone in one of there iphone 4 videos while back..just saying :)

posted on 26 Jul 2012, 05:47 6

27. darktranquillity (Posts: 284; Member since: 28 Feb 2012)

How can someone set fire on a house to kill the rats?

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