With more than 1 million apps available in the App Store, it can be difficult to decide what’s worth your money and what you can live without. Although $1.99 might not feel like a risky investment, those periodic impulse downloads can add up. Just consider the fact that 80 to 90 percent of all apps are eventually deleted.
Luckily, there are a few universal indicators of a great app versus a glitchy mess.
Quick: Your phone is dying, and you have about a minute to decide whether or not to download the app before you leave that Wi-Fi hotspot. A quick evaluation of any one of these factors can give you better insight into the true value of the app, but all of them together paint a clearer picture that ensures you’re getting your money’s worth.
If an app costs money, look for a free version first. Lots of apps offer a “lite” version that allows you to try out key features to determine whether an app fits your lifestyle.
The only time you should pay for an app is when you absolutely need the features the paid version offers and you’re familiar with the company making it.
Don’t just look at the average star rating. Take in the whole package. The more reviews an app has, the more likely the aggregate rating is accurate. Read a few of the actual comments in the reviews. Are the most critical reviews about quality, reliability, or something else? An app could have a negative rating just because of an iOS or Android issue that’s already been resolved in a recent update.
If you haven’t heard of a company, check out its website. As software companies gain experience and grow, they accumulate large catalogs of apps and games. How has their other software held up? Do they make regular updates to their apps? If a company has a track record of building good apps, it’s a strong bet that its next app will retain that level of quality.
Apps can drain your battery, even when your smartphone or tablet is asleep. When you fill your device with apps you never use, you have less space for pictures, videos, and music. It also slows your phone down considerably.
Before you buy an app, make sure it’s one you will use regularly. I use a little app called Genius Scan. It’s a very simple program that saves scans of documents as PDFs, which is very handy on the go. I started using the free version and then upgraded to the paid version, which allowed me to upload PDFs to the cloud. It’s incredibly simple, but the $3.99 I paid saved me the cost of buying a scanner.
Many apps ask you to log in with your Facebook or Twitter account. Use caution when doing this. It’s not worth exposing your personal information to a company simply to unlock another level in a game. Many games and apps ask for more access than they need and, once they have your information, it’s theirs forever.
If you’re uncomfortable with the access an app you’re downloading is asking for, don’t allow it. If it’s a necessary permission, you can always enable it later. Treat your personal information (including social media accounts) just like your Social Security number. Keep it safe.
With so many apps to choose from, it’s tempting to download a bunch on impulse just because they seem cool. But just because your friends are buzzing about an app doesn’t mean you need it on your phone. Listen to their recommendations, but also factor in user reviews and your own research. In the end, it’s not really about the $1.99 you pay–it’s about the valuable home screen real estate you’re giving up and the privacy you could be sacrificing.
Featured photo credit: Photo of an iPhone 5C/ Dedi Grigoroiu via shutterstock.com