Considering the hefty price tag of some of the coolest paid apps, cracked Android apps can seem like a tempting treat. Here’s what you should know about cracked Android apps and why they should be avoided, along with other official ways to get paid apps for free.
Even back in the day when the Google Play Store wasn’t crowded by more than a million apps, the practice of cracking apps was prevalent. Now that mainstream developers have routed towards the Google Play Store to sell their paid apps across the Android market, there’s no limit to the number of cracked Android apps that you can find.
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Starting with issues of morality to actual real-world repercussions, there are plenty of grey areas when it comes to using cracked Android apps. However, we’re not your parent to give you a lesson on morality, but rather help you understand what cracked Android apps really and the reasons you should avoid using them.
Since getting the free stuff is probably one of the only reasons you want the cracked apps, we’ve got you covered. We’ve included in this guide some great ways to get paid Android apps for free the legitimate way, so you never have to go down the tricky path of cracked Android apps ever.
What are cracked Android apps?
Android OS comes with the ability to sideload apps, which means that you can install an app without having to access the Google Play Store. In order to install an app directly, you need to fetch the .APK file (format of all Android apps) of that particular app. The way to get your hands on cracked Android apps is by downloading the .APK file directly off the internet and installing it on your Android device manually.
The ability to install .APK files directly are disabled on all Android devices by default but enabling it quite simple. The option is included in the Developers options menu, especially for app developers to test out their Android apps before officially publishing them on the Google Play Store.
- Start off by enabling the Developers option menu by heading over to Settings – About phone – Build number and tap on it 7 times until you see the message “You are now a developer!”
- When you head back to the Settings menu again, you’ll be able to see the Developer options screen, so open it to find the “Unknown Sources” tab.
- Press the toggle switch next to Unknown Sources and confirm your action by pressing the “OK” button and you will now be able to install .APK files directly.
If you’re hell-bent on trying out the cracked Android apps, you can simply look them up on Google. We’re not going to include any links for copyright reasons and more importantly, for the fact that we do not endorse using them. We’ve done the research and found all the reasons you should steer clear of the paid Android apps being offered online through shady sources.
Why you should avoid cracked Android apps
Let’s be honest – most of us have at some point in life downloaded a program for free that we’d otherwise have to pay for. So why is installing cracked Android apps any different than installing a particular software on your computer? Keeping the morality aside, there are a bunch of good reasons why you wouldn’t want to mess around with cracked Android apps.
Malware infestation waiting to happen
Every time an app is drafted to the Google Play Store for review, the app is analyzed for the permissions and the code is verified as well. When you skip the Google Play Store and install an app manually, you’re pretty much skipping past the verification process and installing an app that may be infected by malware, despite being from a prominent developer.
A study from F-Secure back in 2013 found that out of 28000 detected malware on Android devices, only 146 passed through the Google Play Store. Google’s security algorithm has come a long way since then, which should increase the amount of Android malware coming through cracked Android apps to a whopping 99.5%. Several Android security experts have pointed out that injecting malware can be easily injected into third-party apps.
By simply reverse engineering the .APK file, you can not only insert malicious code into the app but also steal your personal data stored on your Android device. For instance, one of the most popular malware, FakeInstaller tricks you into thinking that the app you have installed is normal, but wraps up malicious code that works in the background. A study by McAfee points out that 60% of malware detected by their antivirus software was based on the “Android.FakeInstaller” malware.
Cracked apps are ruining Android for everybody
The Android operating system may be the shining city on the hill for complete freedom and customization, but it also gets a lot of slack for security vulnerabilities. The fact that users rely on cracked Android apps for some free stuff has actual real-life repercussions. Not only does this discourage app developers from bringing apps to Android platform first, but also encourages piracy on a larger scale.
For instance, when the Netflix app was out and about for the iOS devices for months, it was missing from the Google Play Store. After contacting the app developers, they made a statement explaining that after the app was made public on the Google Play Store, it was immediately cracked and made available to sideload directly using the .APK file.
This caused a massive number of crashes and errors on devices, and they couldn’t properly be reported since the app was not downloaded from the Google Play Store. As a result, Netflix had to remove the app completely and it took them months to bring the app back officially, which kept Android users away from having them on Netflix and Chill moments. Hence, using cracked Android apps actually discourages app developers from bringing you the latest and greatest apps right away.
How to get paid Android apps for free
Now that you know all the reasons why you should avoid using cracked Android apps, it only seems fair that we showed you the right way to get paid Android apps for free. So here’s a collection of apps and services that you can use free of risk and a clear conscience.
1. AppSales: Paid Apps Gone Free & On Sale
Since app developers do actually want you to use and popularize their apps, they tend to give them away for free during certain limited offer periods. AppSales makes the most out of this opportunity by helping you discover the best apps and games that are being offered for free or at a discounted price.
Once you have the app up and running, use the “Now Free” tab to get all of the latest and greatest apps being offered without their price tag. Not just that, you can use AppSales as your very own market watch for the Google Play Store by monitoring app prices and being notified when they’re being offered at a discount.
2. Google Opinion Rewards
Why take the risk of using cracked Android apps when you can earn free credits and use them to buy paid apps right from the Google Play Store? Online surveys aren’t usually very rewarding, but the Google Opinion Rewards changes that by handing out free Google Play credit for every survey that you take and successfully complete.
You start off by signing up and punching in a few basic details about yourself and based on your region, Google will throw some quick and easy surveys at you every now and then. You get the opportunity to earn up to $1 per survey on Google Opinion Rewards and use the credits on the Google Play Store right away to purchase apps, games, movies, ebooks and more.
3. Amazon Underground
Amazon has recently announced that the Amazon Underground program will soon come to end, so make sure you get on this quick. Unveiled back in 2015, the Amazon Underground service comes with a large collection of paid apps that are being offered as “Actually Free”, along with the in-app purchases unlocked as well.
Amazon made a deal with the developers which requires them to publish their apps on Amazon Underground for free, and they get paid for every minute their app is used. In return, Amazon would push their very own ads on these particular apps to entice customers, so it’s a win-win.
However, the company is now moving on to Amazon App Store, which will be replacing the current service soon. You will be able to purchase apps using Amazon coins, and there will be plenty of ways for you to earn them.
4. Paid Apps Gone Free – PAGF (Beta)
Unlike Amazon Underground that forces you to unlock the “Unknown Sources” feature to install .APK files, PAGF is based directly on the Google Play Store. While still in beta (so expect some bugs along the way), Paid Apps Gone Free does exactly as its named – enlist all of the apps being offered for free right on the Google Play Store.
Built to be quite simple and barebone, the list of apps is refreshed every day with new inclusions along with notification support to keep you updated. However, you may not be able to certain apps to be available for free depending on the region from where you’re using the Google Play Store.
5. Freapp – Free Apps Daily
With a gazillion apps on the Google Play Store, you’ll be surprised to know a sheer number amazing free apps there are. Thanks to this service called Freapp, you get to discover some of the latest and greatest originals apps hand-picked by their experts. Adding some social elements, you can follow your friends on Freapp and see what apps they’re using to get some inspiration.
When it comes to getting the paid ones, you can head over to the Sales section of Freapp and find a gigantic list of apps being offered on discount. With its very own widget to keep you notified on the fly and support for Google Play Store across more than 50 countries, Freapp is sure to be a favorite.
6. Pro tip: Google Play Store refund
Half the reason you’re afraid of putting your money on the table for an app is the buyer’s remorse you’d feel if it simply wasn’t worth it. However, a significant number of users don’t realize that the Google Play Store offers a reasonable return and refund policy for apps, games, ebooks and even music purchases.
Google has increased their timeframe for refunds to up to 48 hours, which should be more than enough for you to decide if your app purchase is worth it. There are essentially two ways to ask for a refund – contact the developer directly using your Google account email or use the Google Play Store app to request a refund.
Have you ever used cracked Android apps and grown to regret it, or is the life of a pirate the way to go for you? Are there any other great ways to get paid Android apps for free that we’ve missed out on? Be sure to share them in the comments section down below, or start your own brand new conversation on the Updato Forum.
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