By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to Tech Tuesday, where we do deep dives on the topics you want to learn more about. Today we are going to look at App Stores. What are they? And how do You use them?

What is an App Store?

At its most basic, App Stores are where you go to ‘purchase’ an app for your device. Notice I put them into the literary equivalent of air quotes? This is because purchasing does not mean the same thing to you and me as it does to Google or Apple. To most people the act of purchasing something is you trading money for goods or services. To these companies though, purchasing is any time you acquire a good or service from them. Free or paid, it does not matter, you are purchasing it. Thankfully, most apps people ‘purchase’ these days are free.

What is an App?

Good question. I get this confusion often. People in the tech space talk about them and programs without really explaining. So let’s take a quick moment to talk about apps. Apps are programs. Ever open Word or Photoshop on your computer? Well, you are opening an application we just call them programs. Basically, the substitution of app for program was a marketing thing. They could have kept calling them programs and today we’d all be talking about the Prog Store. But we aren’t, we are talking about the App Store.

Yeah, about that…I don’t have the App Store.

Are you sure about that? Because I bet you do have it, you just aren’t seeing the name App Store. App Store as a named location tends to be the main purview of Apple. If you have an iPhone or iPad you have an icon named App Store. If you aren’t on Apple though, that’s okay. You still have an App Store, they just call it something else. For Android devices the App Store is named Google Play or Google Play Store, or just Play Store.

Anything else?

Yes actually, glad you asked. I would like to take a moment and circle back to the free part of apps. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to go and reverse free but I do want to issue a warning or two. Many, many apps are as free as their price tag say. Google Maps, Photos, Mail, Docs, Slides, and more, they are all free. However, there are other free apps that are more likely to be called freemium. A freemium app is one you pay nothing for to download but there may be hidden costs down the road. Such costs might include: powerups in games, removal of ads, increased features, extra storage space, or other conveniences. You don’t have to pay for these things. Most apps are designed to still be usable without them. However, these add-on micro transactions are there to trickle money out of you. Instead of charging 20 dollars up front, they give the app away for free then charge you .99 cents here and there and, before you know it, you have suddenly paid much more than the 20 you could have.

This is not to say avoid all apps, just go in understanding that sometimes free doesn’t always come without a cost. Which, I think, is good advice in general.

But what if I want to pay for something? Is my information safe?

Not to be super spooky but, is anyone’s stuff safe? But in all seriousness, yes probably. It’s about as safe from attack as your information on Amazon or any other. And if you are really worried about someone getting your credit card information there are ways around that. Legal ways I might add.

Do go on…

Right. Companies know you don’t want to give them your information. Because of this, the big names in the business, Amazon, Google, and Apple, have prepaid cards you can purchase at most stores. Just buy the card for your particular service, Google Play for instance, then follow the instructions on the card to load your ‘money’ on the account. Now, any purchase requiring money will instead use the pre-set amount on the card you added. This is a great way to limit yourself or your loved ones. After all, many of these services, especially the games, are designed to draw you in and lay down far more money than you might have otherwise. The card puts a quick and easy limit on that and keeps your information safe.

You have a good point there. Anything else I should know?

No, not really. At this point the wonders of the App Store are open to you. Although, if I were you, I would make sure one of my first ‘purchases’ was for an anti-virus, especially if I was on an Android device. Malwarebytes is pretty good, but there are other free ones out there too. Other than that, remember…

Have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.