A new report from analytics firm Pixalate reveals that more than 813,000 apps were removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play in the first half of 2021. There are some common themes among these deleted apps, including most importantly, the vast majority (86%) targeted children.
Apple’s App Store had a separate issue with a lack of privacy policies (59%), despite recent mandatory platform privacy changes. Google Play’s area of focus was unsafe permissions (66%) that could potentially skim personal information or locally saved data from users’ devices.
Apple App Store and Google Play remove apps for targeting children, no terms of service
Pixalate’s study does not follow the specific reason given by the Apple App Store or Google Play for the deletion (something that is not always made available to the public). Instead, it examines deleted apps for indicators that may have raised a red flag with either of the app stores.
Android apps are more likely to have dangerous permissions
On the flip side, Android apps were more likely to have at least one unsafe permission: 66% of apps deleted from Google Play, compared to just 8% from Apple’s App Store. The study defines “dangerous permissions” as a list of 30 functions very subject to abuse: these include automatic writing to external storage, initiating a phone call without going through the dialer, audio recording and read / write to the contact list. .
Not all deleted apps were rinky-dink software downloaded by only a few hapless souls. The study documented around 20,000 apps that had at least 100,000 user downloads before delisting. In total, deleted apps were downloaded 9.2 billion times in the first half of this year. Additionally, they collectively had around 21.8 million user reviews before the deletion. Apps removed in Asia tended to have the highest ratings before being phased out: China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea were the first four countries to give apps removed before their demise a high rating, and Japan and Taiwan were also in the top 10.
Apps don’t necessarily have to list a country of registration, and removed apps took full advantage – 74% didn’t bother to list an address. Of the few who did, the majority were in the United States (6%) or India (4%). There was a fairly wide distribution across the rest of the world, with no country reaching 1%.
The United States was also the leader in apps removed with dangerous permissions, at 74%. Some other countries were very close: UK, India and South Korea were all over 70%. 25% of apps removed from the list in the US had access to the camera. Microphone access was most common in South Korea (15%), but the United States and China were not far behind (13%).
The most popular Google Play apps among those that were removed were from Google itself: Cloud Print (1 billion downloads), Google Japanese Input, and Google PDF Viewer (100 million each). This does not necessarily mean that these applications compromise the devices; the most likely explanation is that they have been flagged to have at least one questionable clearance. Cloud Print was scuttled by Google in January because it was primarily used for printing to Chrome devices, which gained native printing capability at the start of the year. PDF Viewer was also deprecated after Chrome received this feature.
The most popular of the apps removed from Apple’s App Store came mainly from China and none came from Apple itself, but “Word Streak With Friends” from popular game maker Zynga made the top 10.