Weekly output: Google password manager updates, Android and iOS location-privacy advice, Android developers lawsuit

If you’re visiting my city for the Fourth of July, welcome to the nation’s capital! Please enjoy your stay; if you’re still weighing different options for where to watch the fireworks, I’d like to think my advice from 2015 still holds up.

6/30/2022: Google Updates Password Manager With New Security, Management Tools, PCMag

Writing this quick post reminded me of how often Google struggles to provide feature parity between its Web and mobile apps.

Screenshot of column as seen in USAT's iPad app7/1/2022: How to block – or blur – your location from your smartphone’s apps, USA Today

I think I’d pitched some version of this column to my editors not too many months ago, but having the topic of location privacy come up in my user-group talk last weekend reminded of that story idea and helped me focus it.

7/2/2022: Google offers Android developers $90 million settlement, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on (overdubbed live) for the first time in several weeks to talk about Google offering a $90 million settlement to Android developers who had complained about the cut it takes of digital app transactions. I told viewers that while Google has shown a non-trivial amount of greediness in its supervision of the Play Store, at least it allows for alernative app stores–something Apple does not.

Smartphone spring cleaning: delete some apps, pay for others

By keeping me at home for so much of the past year, the pandemic has prolonged the life of my 2019-vintage Pixel 3a phone to an unnatural degree. But the cushy, stay-home lifestyle this Android device has enjoyed has not prevented one sign of smartphone age: a dwindling amount of available storage.

The easiest way to free up a bunch of space is to get rid of apps you haven’t been using. In any version of Android, the Play Store should let you sort your list of installed apps by when they were last used, but the current Android 11 provides a more direct reminder: If you don’t use an app for long enough, the system will automatically reset its permissions to zero.

Screenshot of Android's list of apps with automatically-removed permissions

The resulting lists of apps with removed permissions reminded me of how long I’d used a bunch of travel apps, but they’ve also spotlighted apps that I had lost interest in using even before the pandemic.

But as I’ve been removing various apps from smartphone, I’m also not only adding some but paying for them.

That’s not a matter of storage space but privacy. As I’ve realized in covering privacy fears over phone apps–as in, the evidence-starved assertion that TikTok is uniquely dangerous–ad-supported apps can allow for the collection and subsequent resale of more data than you might imagine.

The simplest way to solve that concern is to pay for the app–either by upgrading to an ad-free version with in an-app payment (as I did last year with Flightradar24), or by switching to a competing app if the title in question doesn’t allow that option.

And that’s why I finally have a new weather app: After years of relying on Yahoo Weather and then starting to get grumpy over the space devoted in its interface to ads, I finally deleted it. In its place, I installed Today Weather, the pick of multiple reviewers, and then paid the $6.99 lifetime fee for ad-free operation with premium features enabled. Now I have a better set of forecasting tools without any ads and the tracking that goes on behind them.

And yes, this app takes up about a third of the space than Yahoo Weather did. On an aging device like my Pixel 3a, every little byte counts.