If you have a smart phone, android or mobile device, you’ve probably used apps. Easy to download and often free, apps allow you to play games, get directions and access news, weather and other information. In 2010 alone, consumers downloaded approximately 11 billion apps. Tablets, smart phones, andoids and mobile devices are taking over the digital market.

While apps are great ways to enjoy your smart phone, consumers should understand that not all apps are created equal and some may end up costing you more than you thought.

“Mobile apps allow consumers to do almost anything on their smart phones,” said Ron Mycholuk, Community Consultant for BBB serving Central and Northern Alberta. “But some consumers download them without thinking about what they’re paying for, what information the app might gather or who gets that information.”

Here are some questions and answers to help consumers understand mobile apps.

How do I pay for my apps? It depends on where and how consumers download. Phone plans may contain monthly data charges or consumers may be paying per download. As well, app stores often require consumers to provide credit card information and create an account to make purchases.

Why are some apps free? While consumers pay for some apps, others are offered free and make money in different ways.

  • Companies may sell advertising space in the app to other businesses.
  • Companies may offer basic version of the app for free. Consumers are then required to purchase the full version.
  • Some apps allow consumers to buy more features within the app. Usually, consumers are billed for these purchases through their app store account.
  • Some free apps are designed to interest consumers in the company’s other products.

What types of information can apps access? It depends on the app itself. Some may be able to access phone and email contacts, call logs and device location. Some access only the information they require to function, while others access data unrelated to their purpose.

Why do some apps ask for location? Apps use specific location data for maps, nearby coupons and information on who consumers might know nearby. Other apps provide this information to ad networks that build a profile and target marketing towards a consumer’s specific interests.

Should I update my apps? It’s a good idea to update your apps. Updates may have security upgrades that protect your information from the latest hacks.

Could an app infect my phone? Hackers have created apps that infect smart phones and other mobile devices. If a phone begins performing functions on its own, that may be a sign of malware.

About the BBB

The Better Business Bureau, founded in 1912, is a champion for ethics and trust in the marketplace. Only businesses that meet the high BBB standards are invited to become BBB Accredited Businesses. Today, 123 BBBs across the United States and Canada rate more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities with scores ranging from A+ to F. Only a BBB Accredited Business may elect to participate in BBBOnLine, one of the most trusted and recognized Internet seal programs in the world. The BBB serving northern Colorado and Wyoming topped 1.1 million instances of service to consumers and businesses in the last 12 months. These services include reliability reports on local companies and charities, access to companies that can be trusted by industry, help with dispute resolution, and trustworthy information on consumer and business topics. Luanne Kadlub, BBB media relations manager, 970-488-2044 [email protected]  

Find out more about the Manitoba Better Business Bureau here.