Revealed: the prices for manipulating the Apple App Store rankings

Recently a few documents have surfaced in various places on the Chinese side of the Internet. They confirm what many people in the industry were suspecting: the Apple App Store rankings can be (and are) heavily manipulated by unscrupulous developers who generate tons of artificial downloads and five-star ratings.

Prices for Apple App Store ranking manipulation in China

Prices for Apple App Store ranking manipulation in China

The documents that have been uncovered give a price indication of the price it costs to reach the top of the rankings through mass download and rating:

  • Top 10 Games category, China: CNY 66,000 (USD 10,600) for one day, CNY 297,000 for one week (USD 48,000)
  • Top 10 Productivity category, China: CNY 18,000 (USD 2,900) for one day, CNY 81,000 for one week (USD 13,000)
  • Top 10 Entertainment category, China: CNY 12,000 for one day (USD 1,900), CNY 54,000 for one week (USD 8,700)
  • Top 10 Books: CNY 9,000 for one day (USD 1,500), CNY 45,000 for one week (USD 7,300)

Staff quoted in the article claim two games in the current Chinese top 10 were able to reach their ranking solely by using their service. As one staff mentioned that “Apple changes their algorithms regularly, but we always manage to change our technology as well”. A few photos from those alleged “rankings farming” facilities have also emerged.

The number one issue that  app developers are facing right now either on iOS or Android, is app discovery. With hundreds of apps being released every day, it’s almost impossible for new app to be found by a large amount of users, unless its developer is willing to spend massive amount of money to promote it using traditional ways (mostly in-app advertisement). That makes the store rankings extremely powerful as they tend to be the only place users go to discover new apps by downloading whatever is popular, in what becomes a self-reinforcing mechanism. Therefore it’s no surprise some fly-by-night developers try to abuse the system to catapult their app in the top rankings, hoping it will start to snowball and stay there for a while. The problem is for Apple and Google to solve, by making app recommendation more personal, either through social data (you might like the apps your friends use) or by using some clever suggestion algorithm (if you like this app, you might like that one too – Amazon is pretty good at that).

Original articles in Chinese:

A first look at GAME Droid, a new Android app store

GAMEDroid Logo (alternative Android app store)

GAME Droid is a brand new alternative Android app store offered by British video games retail company GAME, one of the major players in Europe. The store is in Beta right now but seems fairly finished, even if it’s not obvious right now whether this store is available outside the UK or not. It will need to be installed on your phone, as it’s not accessible through a web browser.

GAMEDroid Icon (alternative Android app store)Unsurprisingly, the app store is dedicated purely to games and thanks to partnerships with EA, Lima Sky or Team17 has some big titles to offer : Dead Space, Temple Run, Contre Jour, New Star Soccer, Worms 3, Tetris… All in all there’s around 250 titles for now, split in the following categories: Action & Adventure, Casual, Sim & Strategy, Sports, Puzzle and Racing. Compared to other Android app stores, that’s quite a small selection of games but the quality standard seems high with very few titles that looks unprofessional.

And it better be because… none of those games are free. Yep, GAME Droid is focusing 100% on premium games, 0% on free-to-play. At the moment it’s unclear if, besides the initial price, any of the games require in-app purchases to unlock additional content or feature but it seems doubtful considering the type of games offered.

The store uses a concept of “wallet” that you need to fill before making a purchase. You’ll first need to sign in with your GAME Wallet account (you can use your Facebook, Google or Microsoft account for that) and add funds with your credit card and possibly vouchers that are or will be sold in actual GAME stores.

So if you’re really into games, know what you want and have no access to Google Play (or more probably, are the parent of such a teenager) then GAME Droid may be an option you want to look into, with the added bonus of more predictable spending on mobile games.

How to download Tinder for Android without Google Play

Download Tinder for Android without Google account

Since its launch in August 2012, Tinder has become one of the most popular dating/matchmaking apps on mobile. Using Tinder you have the option to see anyone using the app who’s within a specific distance radius you’ve set. You can then anonymously like or reject them by swiping over their profile picture. If someone likes you back (a “match”), Tinder introduces you to each other and you can now chat within the app.

As a proof of its success, Tinder’s numbers look impressive: 10 to 50 million downloads on Google Play, over 10 million daily active users and every day 1.2 billion profiles are rated by users and 15 million matches are made by the app. Tinder is available for both iOS and Android devices and is localized in 24 languages.

Download Tinder Android APK without Google Play

If your Android device didn’t come with the Google services pre-installed and that you cannot access Google Play, the good folks at APKtrain and ApkCraft have made the Tinder app available on their Android app store. Please note that the app requires to login with your Facebook account.

The number 1 complaint by Tinder users? It’s that their date in no way resembled their online profile photo.

4 simple steps to install APK files on your Android device

1. Download APK files

Download APK files

Before being able to install a new app on your Android smartphone or tablet, you need to find an APK file, which is basically an installation package for a particular app. If your Android device didn’t come with Google services installed, the most practical way to do so is either by downloading the APK on an alternative Android app store (click on the link for a full list, but we can recommend SlideME or Mobango) or by using Raccoon to download apps from Google Play directly on your PC.

2. Prepare your phone or tablet

Prepare your Android phone or tablet

Next you need to configure your Android phone or tablet so it allows apps to be installed not only from the official app store. To do this, go to Settings > Security, and tick “Unknown sources (Allow installation of apps from sources other than the Play Store)” (on Android 2.x, go to Settings > Applications, and tick “Unknown sources”). You also want to tick “Verify apps” for better security.

3. Copy the APK files to your phone

Copy APK files to your phone

There are different ways to copy the APK file from your PC to your phone:

  • Connect your Android device to your PC using the micro-USB cable that came bundled with your phone or tablet.
  • Or: insert your Android device’s micro SD card in your PC and copy the APK files directly on it.
  • Or: upload them on a cloud storage service such as DropBox and download them on your mobile device
  • Or: send the file to yourself using email or IM.

To find the APK files easily on your mobile device, it’s recommended to copy them into the following directory: /sdcard/Download

4. Install APK files

Install APK files

Now that the appropriate APK files have been copied on your Android device, you only need to execute them to install the app on your phone or tablet. There are two ways to do this:

  • Open the “Download” app on your Android device and then tap on the correct APK file.
  • Or, if you want a bit more control, you can install a file manager app. We can recommend SlideME App Installer (very simple, scans your device to find all APK files) or OI File Manager, more complete.

When running an APK file, you’ll be shown a list of permissions (special rights the application requires). If everything looks legit, just tap on “Install” and the app will be installed after a few seconds. A new icon will now appear in your application drawer. Enjoy!

If you’re getting a “Parse Error” message when trying to install an app, see what it means here.

3 Must-try Simulation Android Games in 2015

This is a guest post by Kyle Albert, a blogger who has been active in ed-tech drives in London since 2011. His love for ideas and innovation has brought him to tech blogging. You can visit his blog wisertomorrow.wordpress.com or his twitter @KyleAlbert9.

Note: the download links for the apps point to Google Play but you can use Raccoon if your Android device doesn’t come with Google services installed.


 

3 Must-try Simulation Android Games in 2015

(Intel Free Press via Creative Commons)

3 Must-try Simulation Android Games in 2015
With the latest development on mobile technology (mTech), we are now able to experience virtual and even augmented reality through our smartphones and tablets. Simulating reality is no longer impossible with the applications that offer this experience. In 2013, simulation was one of the sought after technology for businesses which is said “to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action.” Even government agencies were maximizing this trend to assist their training processes.

Today, it is no longer limited to business and government sectors as consumers are now able to try this technology through applications on their devices. In this post, we want to present you with three of the best Android simulation games you must try before the year ends.

Note: These apps are best tried on tablets with 8-inch to 10-inch screens as the controls are easier to navigate on a larger display, giving the player more room to hold the virtual buttons while viewing the game.

1. F18 Carrier Landing (USD 2.99) 
Developed by RORTOS, this flight simulator is the closest you can get to an actual flight system. The player will need to control the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Super Hornet and do the toughest stunts and maneuvers on air. The game includes: 3D virtual cockpit, 12 missions to complete, flight school, free flight mode, radio communication, and more realistic controls. There’s also an option for the user to connect another device for a more interactive gaming experience. Apart from the F/A-18 Super Hornet, you can also gain the McDonnell Douglas F4E Phantom II, and the three Grumman aircrafts (F-14 Super Tomcat, C-2 Greyhound, and A-6 Intruder). Today, the application has the upgraded version – F18 Carrier Landing II Pro.
Click here to get the F18 Carrier Landing.

2. The Sims FreePlay (Free) 
One of the most popular simulation games we loved in our personal computers are now made available on our mobile devices. The Sims FreePlay works similar to the old game wherein players will be able to create their own character and home that can interact with other players’ characters and houses. Get to enjoy how your character grows from a baby to a senior, and build their unique personalities based on the characteristics you chose for them. Complete various goals to earn Lifestyle points that you can spend on various items for your home. Be an architect of your dream house by designing your own Sims home with multiple floors and swimming pools.
Click here to get The Sims FreePlay.

3. FarmVille 2: Country Escape (free)
The game you followed and played for continuous hours on Facebook now comes with a mobile version. The graphics of Farmville 2 is similar to another simulation game that we have featured previously (the Happy Fish Dream Aquarium). This title was recognized this year as among one of Google Play’s Best Games of the year. The concept is similar to the original social game, wherein players will need to farm  crops on their own land, nurture and raise a variety of plants, and then harvest them afterwards for greater rewards. An additional exciting feature is that you can now raise animals, grow your land, find a new list of plants to nurture, and visit the other farm of your friends. Note: Never forget to get rewards daily by trying your luck on the Prize Wheel.
Click here to get the FarmVille 2: Country Escape.

There are other simulation games on the Android platform that you can try, but these three are among the top on my list that I think you shouldn’t miss. What simulation titles are you waiting to arrive on the Google Play Store this year?

Happy 2015 from Papidroid

happy-new-year-2015-Android-Papidroid

With a new year just taking its first tentative steps and the season’s festivities vanished for good, now is a good time to reflect on the past 12 months. As for everything, there’s been some ups, there’s been some downs, but overall 2014 was a great year for Android and Papidroid.

Android proved to be an unstoppable force this year again with probably over a billion devices sold – in all shapes and sizes, at all prices, on all continents. Exciting new devices were launched, such as Nvidia Shield Tablet, Google Nexus 6, Nokia N1, Xiaomi Mi4 or OnePlus One. On the software front, of course Android 5.0 Lollipop was unveiled and it appears to be one of the biggest Android OS updates ever.

Papidroid kept growing steadily both as a website, with a lot of new content that attracted comments from many readers, and as a community, with our ever-growing readership and followers. We’ll have some surprising new developments coming up in the next few months with Papidroid venturing into new territories – let’s just say we’ll crank up interactivity by quite a few notches. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook not to miss anything.

2015 will be exciting, so stay tuned. It’s a great time to have an Android device. Happy new year!

How to download Google Play APK files directly to your PC

How to download Google Play APK files directly to your PC

So you’ve got an Android phone or an Android tablet that comes without Google Play? One option for getting new apps is to use other, lesser-known app stores. Papidroid offers most probably the biggest list of alternative Android app stores, but if some of them are pretty good, trustworthy and well-stocked (such as our favourites SlideME or Amazon App Store), they still give you access to a much smaller amount of apps than the juggernaut Google Play.

Another option that has only recently become possible is to download the apps from Google Play directly on your PC. Raccoon by Onyxbits is a free tool for Windows that lets you do just that. It basically behaves as a Google Play desktop client.

funny-raccoon-excellent

How does this work? Let’s have a look.

  • First, download the Raccoon .exe from the official website and run it.
  • You’ll be greeted with a login screen where you’ll have to enter a username and password for a valid Google account. We strongly suggest using a specially created account just for this (go to mail.google.com, then click on “Create Account”) as there’s a chance your password might become compromised. The Android ID field can be left empty.
  • Once you’re on the next screen, you can start searching for apps. Similar to Google Play, you can search either for keyword (“FPS game“), apps name (“Snapchat“), package name (“com.instagram.android.apk“) or developer name (“Supercell“).
  • Once you’ve found the app you want, just click on the Download button. The APK files are saved in the following folder on your hard drive: c:\Users\[YourUserName]\Raccoon\archives\default\apk_storage\
  • Once you’ve downloaded the APK on your PC, you can install them on your Android smartphone or tablet using the usual sideloading technique we’ve explained before.

Papidroid-Seal-of-ApprovalSo yes, Raccoon works fine and it’s pretty amazing news for people without Google Play on their Android devices. Tested and approved by Papidroid!

If you live in a country where Google Play is completely blocked (say, China), a Google Play desktop client such as Raccoon won’t be of any help. We suggest using a VPN to circumvent the blocking.

Trick your brain with those anaglyph red/blue 3D apps for Android

papidroid-anaglyph-3d-glasses-android-2

You might have come across anaglyph 3D images in books or on TV. It’s a common stereoscopic 3D effect achieved by encoding each eye’s image using different colours, typically red and cyan (or green and magenta). Each eye is seeing the same picture with a slightly different perspective, and the brain combines those two views to create a picture that feels truly 3D.

If you have some red/cyan glasses lying around (if not, they’re extremely cheap to purchase), there are a few cool Android apps using that technology and the result is surprisingly impressive given how simple the effect is. As always on Papidroid, we’re only presenting apps that are available on alternative app stores besides Google Play.

Remember to crank up the brightness of your screen to the maximum to make up for the darkening effect of the 3D glasses.

  • Crash Course 3D (DFC Games)

This game is obviously very inspired by Super Stardust on PS3 but in our opinion is also one of the best game ever on Android, anaglyph or not. At its heart it’s a pure shoot’em up, except you move on the surface of a tiny spherical planet to destroy aliens. The graphics are great, but with the 3D option activated, they look spectacular. Smooth animation helps keep the game feel very responsive even when swamped with enemies. Requires Android 2.2 or higher.

Download Crash Course 3D on Amazon App Store , Aptoide or Google Play.

  • Make it 3D (Photo3d.apps)

Here’s a small tool that lets you take 3D photos without the need for a 3D camera. Instead, you take 2 pictures with a slightly different camera angle and blend them. It’s very well done and a lot of fun to play with. Requires Android 2.1 or higher.

Download Make it 3D on SlideME, Opera Mobile Store or directly from the developper.

  • 3D Glasses Red Cyan Test Game (G6 Game)

This one is a simple 3D toy where you throw boxes and balls around. It looks great and is a great way to dabble with anaglyph 3D but it won’t keep you engaged for very long. Too bad the author didn’t add a bit of gameplay. Requires Android 2.0.1 or higher.

Download 3D Glasses Red Cyan Test Game on SlideME

  • Spincells (BytesInARow)

Spincells is a small puzzle game that plays a bit like a 3D game of Reversi or Othello. It can be played by one or two players, or even two computers. Graphics are a bit coarse but the 3D stereoscopic effect is a nice touch considering the game is actually played in 3 dimensions. Requires Android 2.1 or higher.

Download Spincells on SlideME. There’s also a full version available for less than 1 USD.

  • Comet Catcher 3D (BlackCheetah)

Here’s great neo-retro looking arcade game that plays a bit like Snake on steroids in the sense that you control a reptile-like creature that has to absorb stars to grow, while avoiding your opponents. The graphics (and the gameplay) are a bit on the messy side but the game looks really cool in 3D. Requires Android 2.2 or higher.

Download Comet Catcher 3D on Mobango.


Alternatively, you can find some very good 3D anaglyph stereoscopic content on Youtube, like the following music clip, Letter to the Winter by Berniceya (Bernice Chitiul):

If you enjoy 3D and want something a bit more palatable, you might want to check Google Cardboard which offers much better visuals and a much more immersive experience at a very low cost.

Slow Android? How to fix the lag of your Android phone or tablet

Has your Android phone or tablet become really unresponsive lately? Has your once breezy device recently slowed down to a crawl? As we (ab)use our phones for many hours every day, we really push them to their limits. Occasionally, one of the consequence is a notable drop of their performance, which luckily can can be resolved most of the times. See below for 3 ways to fix the dreaded Android lag.

Clean up storage

A nearly full storage might slow down your Android phone. To reclaim disk space, you can either do it manually, removing apps, pictures or music you don’t need anymore, or you can use an app such as Clean Master (APK directly available on the website) that will delete cache, residual files and junk files. Clean Master claims the average cleaning deletes 300 MB of pure junk so there’s probably more storage space on your phone you can claim back than you think.

Uninstall apps running in background

If you’re not too careful when installing APK from various sources, you might end up with a lot of useless apps running permanently in the background. Not all these apps are malicious, but for sure they help slow down your phone. Discover what apps are running permanently in the background (hint: they’re using precious RAM even though you haven’t launched them for weeks) by using a tool such as Memory Booster (APK directly available on the website, also on SlideME). If you reckon those apps are not super important to you, just get rid of them – no mercy for resource hogging apps. Ironically, Memory Booster is one of those applications that keep running in the background, so after using it for a few days to identify the troublemaking apps, you might want to uninstall it.

Format or change your SD card

Finally, a common cause for slowdowns on Android devices is the use of a low quality and/or old SD card. Back it up (see below for details), format it and it might speed things up a bit. Even better, get a new SD card from the likes of Sandisk, Kingston or Samsung that tend to use much higher quality components in their products compared to generic “no name” SD cards. The faster models (30 MB/s and above) are recommended, as the extra speed will make a massive difference when using your phone. Prices are always going down, so there’s a good chance you can buy a bigger, better quality SD card for the same price than the one you bought only last year.


 

How to back up your Android SD card?

  1. Leave your current SD card inside your Android device and connect it to your PC with a regular USB cable.
  2. On your phone, select “USB connection” in the notification area (swipe down from the top of the screen), then choose “USB Mass Storage“. Press OK.
  3. A new drive or a “Removable Disk”  will appear on your PC. That’s your SD card. Open it up, and copy all the files inside to a empty folder on your PC. For extra safety you can make a copy of those files on a USB stick or CD-R.
  4. Disconnect your Android device from the PC, turn it off and replace the SD card in your phone or tablet with the new one. If it’s empty, format it as this will confirm it’s working properly.
  5. Connect your Android device to your PC again. Copy all the files that you saved earlier on your PC to your phone or tablet.

Best Android antivirus: 360 Security

360_Security_header

If you often install apps from outside Google Play (and you well might if you’re browsing a website dedicated to alternative Android app stores!), you should consider getting a security app on your Android device. The risk of getting malevolent software is relatively low if you’re cautious about the kind of apps you install, but as the saying goes – better safe than sorry!

There are many popular options for free antivirus software on Android, many of which are offered by companies long established on the PC market, such as AVG, Avast, Norton or Kaspersky, to name a few. So many options make it hard to know which one to pick.

What’s the best antivirus app for Android, then?

At Papidroid we’re particularly fond of one Android antivirus in particular: 360 Security from Beijing-based company Qihoo. In the west, Qihoo is still a newcomer, but in China it’s more or less a household name when it comes to computer security. It’s been around for nearly 10 years in the Middle Kingdom, and their products are used monthly by over 496 million users on PC and 641 million users on mobile devices (source). Since last year the company has expanded overseas, localizing its antivirus software in English, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, German, French and Korean.

360 Security is a true Swiss army knife for your Android phone or tablet. It obviously protects you from viral attacks and monitors against malware, system vulnerabilities and privacy risks, but it also helps keep the performance of your phone optimal by removing from memory apps that are not needed any more and deleting useless junk files. There are a few additional features, like a call and SMS blocker (to keep those creepy people at bay) or an app manager that lets you uninstall apps easily.

The apps is very nicely presented, with beautiful full-screen colourful menus showing the information in a very clear way and letting you access the 4 main features: virus scan, junk cleaner, memory booster and anti-theft. A multifunctional tool bar permanently resides in the notification area and gives you instant access to some of the most useful features of your phone: alarms, recent apps and a torchlight. A tiny floating icon is also present on the desktop and tapping on it opens a small panel that lets you clean your device’s memory with a single tap and doubles as a convenient control panel for your Android device, where you can toggle wifi, Bluetooth, data, GPS, airplane mode, screen luminosity mode, auto-rotate mode, vibration, sound, etc.

Qihoo_360_Security_Toolbar

In a welcome move we’d like to see generalized to all Android developers, Qihoo is very transparent about the permissions their app requires, and details the reason behind them on its website.

Best of all, and true to Papidroid’s philosophy, 360 Security is available outside of Google Play, directly from the official website, meaning you will always get the latest version from a location you can trust.

360_security_icon