The lure of a free app is enticing indeed. At no charge, you get to unlock additional functionality on your computer or smart device.
But there’s no such thing as free lunch, is there?
Given the fact the developers need to justify their efforts somehow, it’s fair to assume they’re making money by distributing free apps. The only thing is, you’re left guessing on how.
You can hope adware isn’t part of their strategy…or any of the other potential problems you’re going to read about.
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Free Apps — Raising Brand Awareness or a Covert Way to Distribute Malware?
Without knowing more about the developer whose app you’re about to install, it is a tough question to answer. Not all developers have your best intentions at heart. Nor do they always choose to resort to ethical business practices.
A good rule of thumb is to trust the big-name brands more than the no-name ones. But that doesn’t guarantee anything. Moreover, the potential issues go beyond malware:
1. You Might Be Getting an Inferior Product
It can be a poorly designed interface or low quality of coding. There’s another saying you’re likely familiar with – more often than not, you get what you pay for.
Even if the core of the program has a spotless functionality, the interface and the overall user experience may not be able to compete. At the end of the day, there is only so much time developers can afford to spend on a piece of software without expecting any compensation for it.
2. Seeing Ads All Over It Can Be a Nuisance
Depending on what grinds your gears the most, getting a piece of software that has ads plastered all over it can be quite a nuisance.
Developers need to monetize their efforts somehow. As it so happens to be, ads are one way to make ends meet (and a popular one to boot). But let’s say you’re 100% ad-tolerant. Even so, how can you be sure that the ads inside are not contributing to your computer’s slowdowns? Worse yet, what guarantees you these ads are not spreading malware, a practice that’s otherwise known as malvertising? You can’t.
3. The Documentation May Be Lackluster (or Nonexistent)
If you’re comfortable fiddling with new and unexplored software, the power to you. But if you tend to struggle in these situations, not having any documentation around when you need it could prove to be a harder obstacle to overcome.
You can try asking around on the forums, but it may take some time before someone replies. Either way, relying on other people’s kindness and willingness to help may not be the best way to resolve the trouble. Especially when you find yourself pressed for time.
4. The Developer Has Abandoned It
Free software tends to be a product of love. But when the developer is not getting compensated for it, you can bet that paid work will always get a higher priority.
As such, it sometimes happens that the free software gets abandoned in favor of steady, well-paid work. The developer may struggle to find the time needed to support it properly and keep working on it. So they leave it behind, for better or for worse.
5. There May Be Malware Under the Lid
Bundled malware is the hidden cost you might be paying when installing a free piece of software. By doing so, you risk having your data erased, stolen, or encrypted against your will.
For instance, many free cybersecurity solutions have been caught selling data to third parties. It’s especially common with free virtual private network services. In the end, going with a premium provider or anyone with a well-known brand and spotless reputation is the safest way to go. That is why many users choose paid VPN providers with no-log policies, like NordVPN.
6. No Customer Support May Be a Dealbreaker
Part of the reason why paid software justifies its pricing is the fact you’re getting customer support with it. In other words, whenever you get stuck, or something doesn’t work as intended, you’re free to contact the customer support team. And it’s a safe bet they’ll respond right away.
Free applications, on the other hand, tend to leave you to figure things out on your own. Since customer support costs precious hours, it’s no wonder why you won’t be getting it with a freebie.
Free apps are great, but it’s necessary to understand their limitations and the risks that come with them. In most cases, a paid alternative is worth it to avoid the problems discussed in this article.