What Is Optical vs Digital Zoom on a Smartphone?

If someone from the early days of cellphones were to jump to the present day, they might be confused that one of the features we care most about on our phones are cameras. 

Early phone cameras were absolutely awful, but the ability to have a camera with you wherever you go, quickly made them extremely popular. Manufacturers have thus been pouring an absolute fortune into camera development and now we have phones with cameras that can give professional cameras a run for their money. At least under the right conditions. 

One thing that relatively few smartphone cameras currently have however, is optical zoom. However, you’ll however start to see it in more new phones as time goes by. Which makes it the right time to discuss the issue of optical vs digital zoom.

What Is “Zoom”?

You probably already know what camera zoom is. At least, you know what it does. “Zooming” is a function that makes a subject in your photo who is far away appear close by. The effect on the photo is to essentially reframe it by making the object or person fill more of the space.

There are different ways of achieving this effect, but most smartphone cameras use a method called digital zoom. To understand how optical zoom is different from the digital zoom method we currently use, we’ll first have to explain digital zoom as it’s currently used in the vast majority of phones.

Everyone’s Doing It: Digital Zoom

Digital zoom is pretty much the same thing as cropping and resizing a photo in an application like PhotoShop. The main difference is that you’re doing it live, while taking a photo or making a video. So what’s the big deal? It all comes down to pixels. Which is where the “digital” in digital zoom comes from.

When you enlarge a digital image, it becomes more “pixelated”. That’s because you have a fixed supply of pixels. The only way to zoom is to make the pixels larger. The image becomes grainier, chunker and ends up with a low-fidelity image.

That sounds like a bit of a disaster then for smartphones, but various tricks have been developed by smartphone manufacturers over the years to make the effects of pixelation on digitally-zoomed images less of a problem. Since the cameras on modern phones have sensors capable of capturing many more pixels than most people typically need. So, you can crop to a section of the full sensor resolution without losing any quality. 

That’s perfectly fine if you want to capture a snapshot suitable for social media, but if you want to take a photo at the full resolution of your camera, you can’t zoom into any part of it without losing detail. 

Most people probably don’t care to have massive, full-resolution images that can’t be uploaded to FaceBook or InstaGram at their true quality anyway. However, more and more people are taking smartphone photography very seriously. Which means there’s a market for more premium solutions. Which is where optical zoom comes into the picture. 

Pun totally intended.

Bending Light: Optical Zoom

Optical zoom is simply a method of zoom that uses light to enlarge an image. It works the same as a magnifying glass, bending light through the optical medium (the lens) to create a larger image.

In a dedicated camera, such as a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera), you have large lens assemblies that can zoom by physically moving the lens back and forth. This changes the focal length between the lens and the camera sensor. Projecting an enlarged image into the entire sensor.

As you can probably tell from the way it works, this means that the enlarged image projected through the lens covers the entire, full-resolution sensor in light. That means the zoomed-in image has exactly as much detail as the full image on a camera with only digital zoom. It’s truly lossless image magnification.

Optical Zoom Is Hard in a Smartphone

Achieving optical zoom in a smartphone is not a trivial matter. You can’t really have a huge motorized lens assembly on the back of the phone. Although, this has actually been attempted. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom was essentially a smartphone with a compact digital camera glued onto the back. Have a look at this:

Clearly that’s not something you can just slip into your pocket, which is why this approach never really caught on. Instead, modern smartphones simply stick a bunch of cameras onto the back of our phones. Each camera has a different focal length range, so when you add all the cameras together, you get an optical zoom range.

This is not the same as having, for example, a big telephoto lens on a DSLR. That’s because you can move the focal length of the telephoto lens to focus the image at different zoom levels onto the same sensor. The problem is that most multi-camera smartphone setups have different sensors for each lens. The main camera usually has the largest sensor with the highest pixel count. With the wide-angle and telephoto cameras sporting smaller, cheaper sensors.

Doesn’t this negate the entire point? Well in some sense it does, but a multi-camera setup still offers the best high-quality zoom range on a phone. Engineers have come up with ways of combining these different approaches to zoom into something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Best Of Both Worlds: Hybrid Zoom

So-called “hybrid” zoom systems use the optical abilities of onboard cameras along with digital zoom and something known as “computational photography”.

Computational photography refers to a set of software techniques that use artificial intelligence and other fancy mathematical methods to change and enhance the images that the camera can capture. For example, artificial intelligence can increase the resolution of an image by “imagining” what it would look like at a higher resolution. 

It might sound like magic, but it actually works pretty well in most cases. Software techniques like these can also help combine the different images from the cameras onboard to enhance the details of the photo at the higher end of the optical zoom range. Even when digital zoom comes into play, all these sources of image data and smart software algorithms can create some pretty stunning images.

Should You Care About Optical Zoom In A Smartphone?

High-end smartphones like the iPhone 12 have a good optical zoom range. It’s not really “telephoto” by any stretch of the imagination, but you can generally expect 2x to 2.5x image size increase with no pixelation. This is perfect for typical use cases such as taking a photo of something reasonably close, which you can’t get physically closer to.

It’s certainly a nice feature to have, but the vast majority of users are going to be perfectly happy with digital zoom. Especially when enhanced with a nice dollop of artificial intelligence. If phones start to offer optical zoom ranges above 2.5x at the same resolution as the main sensor, it would be time to sit up and take notice. However, at the time of writing, it’s not a feature that should affect your purchasing decision.

8 Best Android Video Player Apps

Gone are the days when watching videos required a TV and video cassette or DVD player.

Today, video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, have taken over in a big way. Plus, better video formats and storage solutions have emerged, and many smartphones now shoot 4K video so you can turn your mobile device into a portable theatre.

If your device’s stock video player doesn’t play high-quality videos properly, there are several Android video player apps you can replace it with. These video player apps allow you to get the features you need, and enhance your video viewing experience.

Best Android Video Players 

AllCast

AllCast is an Android video player app that works with streaming devices like Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One/360, WDTV, and other DLNA-compliant renderers. The app allows you to stream content from your phone to a TV, monitor or other larger screen instead of playing it on your tiny smartphone screen.

You can use AllCast to stream other types of media such as your photos and music from local storage or cloud storage.

AllCast is available as a free app, with a five minute limit for content. If you want to remove the limitations, you can buy the premium key for $4.99 and enjoy watching videos on your phone.

MX Player

If you want the right balance of powerful features and ease of use, MX Player is worth considering. The Android video player app supports more formats and offers features such as hardware accelerated playback and hardware decoding.

The viewer is simple and uncluttered with support for pinch-to-zoom and various swipe gestures, subtitle gestures, multi-core decoding, and variable aspect ratio. MX Player also has a kids lock to keep your kids from watching anything unsuitable content.

You can use the free MX Player or upgrade to the Pro version for $5.99.

VLC for Android

VLC for Android is a full media player that can play any video and audio files, network drives and shares, network streams, and DVD ISOs.

The app has a slew of features including an equalizer and filters. VLC also supports all video formats and codecs including MOV, AVI, MP4, MKV, FLAC, Ogg, AAC, TS, Wv, and M2TS.

Plus, the app supports closed captions, subtitles, Teletext, multi-track audio, auto-rotation, and gestures to control brightness, volume, and seeking. You can also stream a video from a URL.

LocalCast

LocalCast is a free Android video player app that allows you to stream videos, photos, and music to devices like Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, and Fire Stick.

The app allows for streaming from your device’s local storage or from cloud storage. Plus, it supports streaming from links and from most DLNA compliant devices.  

If you don’t like all the ads in the free version, you can upgrade to the Pro version and unlock features like local media search and video preview.

Plex

If you have a lot of videos on your Android device and limited storage, Plex is a pretty good video player app to use.

You can set up a server on your computer, and use Plex to stream content to your mobile device, thus turning your device into a streaming powerhouse. The app also sorts your media files into a library so that you can stream into your smart TV or mobile device.

Plex is free to set up and use, but you can upgrade to the Plex Pass subscription and access features like wireless syncing, media control dashboard, trailers, and user controls.

BSPlayer

The BSPlayer app plays the most popular video formats, and supports streaming from DLNA devices.

The video player app features hardware accelerated playback, software and multi-core hardware decoding, native subtitle support, and can play files from compressed formats.

Not only that, but BSPlayer also offers swipe gesture support, and you can customize the interface using a variety of skins. You can also use the pop out viewer to watch videos in a window above other apps on your device.

The free version is app-supported but you can access all the features. The full version without ads offers added functionality including support for Chromecast, multiple audio streams and subtitles, and lock screen (child lock).

Video Player All Format

Video Player All Format (XPlayer) is a basic Android video player app with 4K playback ability, ultraHD, broad format support, and Chromecast support, gesture controls.

The app includes helpful extras such as variable speed playback controls from .25x to 4x, night mode, and gesture controls. You can also create a video playlist and add your favourite videos to it, pinch-to-zoom, find and delete videos files, or edit them using the video cutter.

If you’re a multitasker, you can watch videos in a pop up window, or play videos in the background while doing something else.

The app is add-supported, but for just $3.99 you can unlock the ad-free version and view your videos without any distractions.

Kodi

Kodi is a popular video streaming app that’s loaded with features to help you turn your Android device into a portable media hub. The app doesn’t contain any content, but you can access videos from your local storage, or from cloud storage.

Plus, Kodi allows you to access content that’s available on a content provider’s site by using third-party plugins or addons like YouTube, PopcornFlix, Crackle and more. Make sure you protect your privacy using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your data so that online snoops and hackers can’t steal your personal information.

Enhance Your Video Viewing Experience

With the right Android video player app, you won’t have to worry about downloading more plugins or codecs to enjoy your favourite TV shows, music, or movies. These 8 video player apps eliminate all the hassles and get right down to playing your videos.

Did your favorite Android video player app make the list? Tell us about it in the comments.

7 Best Pedometer Apps for Android and iPhone

A pedometer is a little machine that tracks and tallies your steps and distance traveled each time your feet hit the pavement. Not only that, but using one can also help you get a sense of your physical activity throughout the day, and even lose weight.

Old-school pedometers, which are worn on the wrist, tend to be more accurate, but if you’d rather not buy one, you can install a pedometer app on your phone instead.

App-linked pedometers use accelerometer chips to detect motion as steps so that you can view your step total on your mobile device.

Here’s a roundup of the best pedometer apps for Android and iPhone.

1. Accupedo (Android, iOS)

Accupedo is a simple pedometer app that offers just the basics plus GPS tracking. You can read and view your daily stats, which includes steps, mileage, and trends over days to years in the chart tab.

The GPS map integration feature in this app allows you to see a map of your route, but it may also quickly decrease your phone’s battery life. You can also select the type of activity such as running, walking or cycling. Its customizable sensitivity setting allows you to adjust motion sensing as well.

Accupedo lets you share your progress with friends on your social media pages, and offers a nice selection of color themes. However, the app doesn’t provide for other community activity, and displays nuisance ads.

2. StepsApp Pedometer (Android, iOS)

StepsApp pedometer features a sleek, dark themed interface with a main tab that displays your active calories burned, steps, time, and distance.

Once you set your step goals, you can track your progress all day using the large circular graphic on the app’s main screen. You can even go back months or years in the past and check out your long-term history to spot any interesting trends.

Although the StepsApp pedometer has few features, its layout is visually appealing with customizable colors and animations. Plus, the app can track wheelchair pushes, and you can share your progress on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

3. Pedometer & Step Counter (Android, iOS)

The Pedometer & Step Counter by Leap uses a built-in sensor to count your steps. Unlike other pedometer apps on this list, this particular app lacks GPS tracking, so it barely consumes your phone’s battery power.

The app also tracks your walking distance, tracks burned calories, and time. All the data you need is displayed in innovative report graphs, so you can track your monthly, weekly, and last 24 hours stats in graphs specially designed for mobile devices.

Plus, you can pick out a colorful theme to enjoy your step counting experience, and if you’re an iPhone user, you can sync the data to Apple Health.

Pedometer & Step Counter app doesn’t require you to sign in to use it, and doesn’t have any locked features or hidden charges. Just tap start, and the app will count your steps whether your phone is in your pocket, bag, armband, or in your hand.

4. Google Fit (Android, iOS)

Google Fit is one of the best step counter apps with more than 50 million downloads to boot. The app helps you see your workouts by displaying stats like speed, heart rate, route, pace, and more for your walks, runs, and bike rides.

You can monitor your exercise goals and see your progress on your steps and heart points. Plus, you can adjust your goals as you challenge yourself to achieve better health.

Google Fit also works with your favorite fitness devices and is compatible with other fitness apps including Headspace, Strava, Runkeeper, and MyFitnessPal. This way, you can track all your physical activity in one place, and manually add any other activities that other apps don’t track.

5. Samsung Health (Android, iOS)

Samsung Health (formerly S Health) is a hub for all things health. The app displays all the information you want in a single place and puts you in control of your health.

Each time you walk, cycle, run, or hike, Samsung Health tracks your activity and provides a dashboard for your stats so that you can see your progress. The app also tracks other health-related metrics such as heart rate, oxygen level, daily steps, and measures stress levels.

You can personalize Samsung Health to your liking and track other things including sleep, water intake, weight, and caffeine. The app is free, doesn’t display annoying nuisance ads, and has a great fitness community.

6. Pacer (Android, iOS)

Pacer is a top step counter app that works entirely from your phone with no extra setup or hardware required.  The app tracks your steps whether your phone is in your pocket, hand, armband, or jacket, and records flights, steps, distance, calories, and active time.

You can link the app to Apple Health and track your activity with your Apple Watch. Plus, with GPS tracking, you can track your routes on a map as you walk, hike, run, or bike.

The app also tracks your BMI and weight over time, tracks blood pressure, and other metrics, all in a simple interface. The free version works as a pedometer, but you can upgrade to the premium plan and get more insights including how you stack up against other Pacer users.

7. MapMyWalk (Android, iOS)

MapMyWalk pedometer app tracks and maps every mile you go, and then gives you feedback and stats that help you improve your performance.

The app uses GPS to track your walks and shows you the route you took on a map. It also gives you audio feedback on every tracked walk, and you can use the Routes feature to find nearby walking spots, save your favorite walking paths, and share with others.

There are more than 600 sports activities you can choose from through the MapMyWalk app, and gain in-depth insights on each workout. Some of the stats you’ll see include distance, calorie burn, pace, time, and elevation.

The app can connect with other apps like MyFitnessPal, and wearables like Fitbit, Garmin, and Jawbone.  

Advance Your Fitness Goal

Pedometer apps offer a convenient way to track your exercise sessions no matter where you are. Any of these 7 pedometer apps can count and track your steps, but they go further to track other important health metrics like heart rate, oxygen levels, or blood pressure.

Don’t see your favorite pedometer app on the list? Tell us about it in the comments.

7 Best News Apps for Android and iPhone

In the era of fake news, conspiracy theories, and controversial politics, it’s never been more important to seek out trustworthy and respected sources for news and current affairs. Just because something is retweeted or shared a thousand times on social media doesn’t mean that the information you’re seeing is real or true.

That can make separating fact from fiction in the real world even harder. This is especially hard for breaking news events, where the “facts” can rapidly change. If you want instant access to trustworthy news on the go, then you’ll need some of the best news apps for your smartphone. Here are 8 of the best news apps you can try.

1. BBC News

The BBC is the UK’s public broadcaster, but it also has a significant global presence and reputation for solid reporting and unbiased news across the globe, thanks to the BBC World Service. 

The BBC News app, available to users worldwide, offers a British perspective on local and global news events. It doesn’t hype up topics, with the news rating service AllSides confirming that BBC News articles are typically in the center of political reporting.

With correspondents based globally, BBC journalism is at the heart of stories in the UK, US, and worldwide. The BBC news app is freely available on Android or iPhone devices, but non-UK residents will see ads in place during use.

2. Google News

Trusting one source of news can leave you without the dissenting voices you need to really challenge the opinions you’re hearing. That’s where apps like Google News come in, which acts as an aggregator for news sources across the globe.

Rather than provide the journalism itself, Google collects stories from the websites of news agencies worldwide. You can follow different topics, from tech news to local news in your area, which Google will collate into a daily briefing for you to read and catch up with.

You can also delve in deep with Google News, with a full list of news articles and topics (which are ranked based on importance and level of news quality) available in the Full Coverage section of the app.

The news is only as honest as the sources you read, so Google News can help you pick the news agencies you trust the most. Google News is available to download for Android and iPhone devices.

3. CNN News

CNN is the original 24-hour rolling news service and, despite a focus on US events, there’s plenty of news content worth reading via the CNN News app. You can download CNN News on Android and iPhone devices.

CNN’s production quality puts it ahead of many of its competitors, with an enormous bank of video news content for users who prefer visual rather than textual content. CNN is rated as a left-leaning news source by AllSides, which may put some conservative news readers off.

If you’re looking for two sides of the story, the CNN News app will certainly give you one voice you can trust to be constructive and clear, whether your political opinions differ or not. While it’s US-focused, it also breaks a healthy amount of global news stories to keep international users informed. 

4. Reuters

The Reuters news service is an international news provider that informs (if not fully provides) the journalism behind stories in newspapers and on broadcast TV across the globe. It’s also one of the oldest news services, dating back to 1851.

With hard-hitting, high-quality journalists pounding the streets and scouring the internet for scoops, Reuters has gained a global reputation for unbiased reporting. Reuters journalists are focused on a wide range of topics, with the app allowing you to see more of the stories you’re interested in, from sport to politics.

Reuters isn’t political, and takes its reputation seriously, even banning emotive words like “terrorist” from stories to ensure totally objective reporting. If you’re worried about fake news, and you’re struggling to trust other news sources, then installing the Reuters app on Android or iPhone devices would be a great place to start.

5. Apple News

For iPhone and iPad users, you don’t need to install anything extra to start getting the latest news and information, whether you’re after local, national, or global news. This is thanks to the Apple News app, which comes pre-installed with iOS and iPadOS. Unfortunately, Apple News is unavailable for Android devices.

To distinguish it from other news aggregators, Apple News places a focus on visual content like video or images. This helps you to see the most important stories, giving users a quick feed to skim over the news stories of the day without losing the critical facts in the process.

Like Google News and other news apps, Apple News allows you to pick topics (named channels) that are most important to you, from science to entertainment, as well as the top stories of the day in your region. If you want to take things further, a News+ subscription gives you access to hundreds of paid news sources for $9.99/month.

6. Financial Times

As the name might suggest, the Financial Times (FT) is a news source that focuses on how politics, current affairs, and global events impact the financial markets. It’s also one of the oldest news sources, with the first edition published in 1888.

Readers of its pink sheets will know what to expect from the FT app for Android and iPhone devices. Stories are positioned to focus on how business and financial markets might be impacted, but between the lines, you’ll see high-quality reporting on a number of topics that don’t stray too much into outright political opinion.

This is backed up by independent news ratings such as AllSides, which confirms that the FT is placed squarely in the center. If you’re worried about the markets, or you’re just looking for a high-brow news source to try, then the FT app is available for both platforms, but you’ll need a paid FT subscription first.

7. Flipboard

Like Apple News, Flipboard is a news aggregator that focuses on polish, presentation, and appearance. It takes the news, glosses it up, and presents it neatly in Flipboard’s fashionable and easy-to-navigate app for Android and iPhone users.

In the Flipboard app, you can pick the topics that matter most to you, from the most general to niche, which you can then “flip” through at your leisure. Flipboard, like many of the apps on this list, offers a breaking news alert system that’ll alert you to the latest stories as they appear on news sites that Flipboard follows.

You can even add your own sources to the app, letting you build your own aggregated collection of specialist news to read or share with others. If Flipboard isn’t for you, you can use an RSS feeder on your PC or Mac to build your own custom news aggregator, but you’ll need to find the RSS feeds first.

Finding Good News Sources

It’s easy to dismiss one news source or another, based on personal politics, experiences, or dislike for the content generally. That makes it even more important to find good news sources you can trust, especially in current affairs, where you might prefer to see two sides of the story before you make your own judgements.

While it’s always important to consider paying for high-quality journalism, paywalls can sometimes be disruptive and expensive. If you’re on a budget, there are some easy-to-use methods you can use to bypass paywalls for news sites. If it’s a debate you’re after, give some of the calm political subreddits on Reddit a try instead.

30 App Permissions To Avoid On Android

Do you just select Accept to everything thrown at you when you install a new app on your Android device? Most people do. But what are you agreeing to? 

There’s the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) and then there are the app permissions. Some of those app permissions can allow an app, and the company that made it, to go too far and violate your privacy. You need to know what app permissions to avoid agreeing to on your Android.

What permissions should you avoid? It depends, and we’ll go into that further. You’ll want to be wary of permissions related to accessing:

  • Phone
  • Audio
  • Location
  • Contacts
  • Camera
  • Calendar
  • Messaging
  • Biometrics
  • Cloud Storage

What Are App Permissions?

When you install an app, the app seldom comes with everything it needs to do its job already built-in. There are a lot of things already in your Android that the app needs to integrate with to get its job done.

Let’s say you download a photo editing app. The app developer wouldn’t write in a complete photo gallery or camera software into the app itself. They’re just going to ask for access to those things. This keeps the apps small and efficient and your Android from filling up with duplicated app code.

What App Permissions Should I Avoid?

For Android developers, permissions are divided into 2 groups: normal and dangerous.

Normal permissions are considered safe and often allowed by default without your express permission. Dangerous permissions are ones that may present a risk to your privacy. 

We’ll look at the 30 dangerous permissions listed in the Android Developer’s Reference from Google. The name of the permission will be listed, with a quote from the Developer’s Reference about what the permission allows. Then we’ll briefly explain why it could be dangerous. These are app permissions you may want to avoid, if possible

ACCEPT_HANDOVER

“Allows a calling app to continue a call which was started in another app.”

This permission allows for a call to be transferred to an app or service you might not be aware of. This could end up costing you if it transfers you to a service that’s using your data quota instead of your cell plan. It could also be used to secretly record conversations.

ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION

“Allows an app to access location in the background. If you’re requesting this permission, you must also request either ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION or ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION. Requesting this permission by itself doesn’t give you location access.”

Like Google says, this permission alone won’t track you. But what it can do is allow you to be tracked even if you think you’ve closed the app and it’s no longer tracking your location.

ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION

“Allows an app to access approximate location.”

The accuracy of coarse location locates you to a general area, based upon the cell tower to which the device is connecting. It’s helpful for emergency services to locate you during trouble, but no one else really needs that information.

ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION

“Allows an app to access precise location.”

When they say precise, they mean it. The fine location permission will use GPS and WiFi data to pinpoint where you are. The accuracy could be within a few feet, possibly locating which room you’re in within your home.

ACCESS_MEDIA_LOCATION

“Allows an application to access any geographic locations persisted in the user’s shared collection.”

Unless you’ve turned off geotagging on your pictures and videos, this app can go through all of them and build an accurate profile of where you’ve been based on data in your photo files.

ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION

“Allows an application to recognize physical activity.”

On its own, it might not seem like much. It’s often used by activity trackers like FitBit. But put it together with other location information and they can figure out what you’re doing and where you’re doing it.

ADD_VOICEMAIL

“Allows an application to add voicemails into the system.”

This could be used for phishing purposes. Imagine adding a voicemail from your bank asking to give them a call, but the number provided isn’t the bank’s.

ANSWER_PHONE_CALLS

“Allows the app to answer an incoming phone call.”

You can see how this could be a problem. Imagine an app just answering your phone calls and doing whatever it likes with them.

BODY_SENSORS

“Allows an application to access data from sensors that the user uses to measure what is happening inside their body, such as heart rate.”

This is another one where the information on its own might not mean much, but when coupled with information from other sensors could prove very revealing. 

CALL_PHONE

“Allows an application to initiate a phone call without going through the Dialer user interface for the user to confirm the call.”

It’s scary enough to think an app could make a phone call without you knowing it. Then think about how it might call a 1-900 number and you could be on the hook for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

CAMERA

“Required to be able to access the camera device.”

A lot of apps will want to use the camera. It makes sense for things like photo editing or social media. But if a simple kids game wants this permission, that’s just creepy.

READ_CALENDAR

“Allows an application to read the user’s calendar data.”

The app would know where you’ll be and when. If you make notes with your appointments, it’ll also know why you’re there. Add to the location information and the app will know how you got there too.

WRITE_CALENDAR

“Allows an application to write the user’s calendar data.”

A bad actor might use this to put appointments in your calendar making you think you might have to go somewhere you don’t, or call someone you don’t need to.

READ_CALL_LOG

“Allows an application to read the user’s call log.”

Who we talk to and when can be very revealing about our lives. Calling your co-worker during the day? Normal. Calling them at 2 a.m. on Saturday night? Not so normal.

WRITE_CALL_LOG

“Allows an application to write (but not read) the user’s call log data.”

It’s not likely to happen, but a malicious app could add call logs to set you up for something. 

READ_CONTACTS

“Allows an application to read the user’s contacts data.”

Similar to reading the call log, a person’s contact list says a lot about them. Plus, the list may be used to phish your friends, making them think it’s you messaging them. It can also be used to grow a marketing email list the company could then sell off to advertisers.

WRITE_CONTACTS

“Allows an application to write the user’s contacts data.”

What if this could be used to edit or overwrite your contacts? Imagine if it changed the number for your mortgage broker to another number and you call some scammer and give them your financial information.

READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE

“Allows an application to read from external storage.”

Any data storage that plugs into your device, like a microSD card or even a laptop, could be accessed if you allow this permission.

WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE

“Allows an application to write to external storage.”

If you grant this permission, then the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission is implicitly granted as well. Now the app can do what it wants with any connected data storage.

READ_PHONE_NUMBERS

“Allows read access to the device’s phone number(s). “

If an app asks for this and you grant it, the app now knows your phone number. Expect to get some robocalls soon if the app is sketchy.

READ_PHONE_STATE

“Allows read only access to phone state, including the current cellular network information, the status of any ongoing calls, and a list of any phone accounts registered on the device.”

This permission could be used to facilitate eavesdropping and tracking you by which network you’re on.

READ_SMS

“Allows an application to read SMS messages.”

Again, another way to eavesdrop on you and gather personal information. This time by reading your text messages.

SEND_SMS

“Allows an application to send SMS messages.”

This could be used to sign you up for paid texting services, like getting your daily horoscope. This could cost you a lot of money, quickly.

RECEIVE_MMS

“Allows an application to monitor incoming MMS messages.”

The app would be able to see any pictures or videos that were sent to you.

RECEIVE_SMS

“Allows an application to receive SMS messages.”

This app would allow for monitoring your text messages.

RECEIVE_WAP_PUSH

“Allows an application to receive WAP push messages.”

A WAP push message is a message that is also a web link. Selecting the message could open a phishing or malware laden web site.

RECORD_AUDIO

“Allows an application to record audio.”

Yet another way to eavesdrop on people. Plus there’s a surprising amount you can learn from the sounds around a person, even if they’re not talking.

USE_SIP

“Allows an application to use SIP service.”

If you don’t know what a SIP session is, think of Skype or Zoom. Those are communications that happen over a VoIP connection. This is just one more way that a malicious app could watch and listen to you.

Should I Avoid All Android Permissions?

We must look at permissions in the context of what we want the app to do for us. If we were to block all those permissions for every app, none of our apps would work.

Think of your Android device as your home. For our analogy, think of the app as a repairman coming into your home. They have a specific job to do and will need access to certain parts of your home, but not others.

If you’ve got a plumber coming in to fix the kitchen sink, they’re going to need your permission to access the sink and the pipes that supply and remove water. That’s it. So if the plumber asked to see your bedroom, you’d become suspicious of what they’re doing. The same goes for apps. Keep that in mind when you agree to app permissions.