By Doug Miller
One of my favorite devices is my now ancient Samsung Galaxy Tab which runs Android Gingerbread. This is the original 7 inch Tab and in fact I bought it from an online store in the UK well before it was available in the US. I got the international GSM version and this device not only has a full-time 3G data capability but it also makes phone calls as a cell phone. It has worked fine on AT&T and I even occasionally use it as a cell phone with a Bluetooth headset. I pop in a Virgin Mobile Canada SIM chip when I travel to Canada and can use the device without incurring roaming charges. I love the size, the instant on and the full time connection to the net no matter where I am. While I have an iPad I almost never use it. It is too big for me as a portable device. Same goes for my Windows Tablet – not quite instant on yet and a way too big for throwing in my coat pocket as I run out the door. Hopefully when Windows 8 launches there will be devices similar to the form factor of the 7 inch Galaxy Tab.
However, well I like the Tab, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with its stability and sluggishness. I have a lot of apps installed and it was beginning to feel a lot like an old PC that has too much stuff on it. Response was slow, the network would often fail and occasionally the device would freeze up. I then started looking at what was running on the device. To my surprise, dozens of apps are running at any given time. Most of these apps are ones that I did not start or even use on a regular basis. Things like Facebook, Google Play Store, Gallery, Google Play Books, Twitter, Skype, Amazon Appstore, TripIt, LinkedIn and on and on. Why were all these apps running if I did not start them? Some of them such as Google Play Store can’t even be killed. They are always running. Thinking about it some more it makes sense that social apps “need” to run all the time so that I can see the latest information from my connections. Yet somehow these apps seemed so intent on running all the time and getting updates that I no longer seemed to have any cycles left to actually use the device myself.
I then read about an issue with the Facebook app for Android and iPad in PCWorld yesterday. The article reported on a post from by Gareth Wright, a UK-based developer of apps for iOS and Android devices about a potential exposure with the Facebook apps…
“A security flaw in Facebook’s mobile apps can be easily tapped by thieves searching for personal information about you. The problem is that Facebook’s app for iOS and Android devices doesn’t encrypt your login credentials, making them a sitting duck for bad apps or a poisoned USB connection.”
Yikes. With all the information we carry on our portable devices, it is always alarming to read of yet another potential backdoor like this. And I started thinking – do I really need to be that connected all the time especially if the cost to me is a degraded experience and even more importantly a potential exposure of my personal data. So I started uninstalling apps. I started by uninstalling all the apps I hadn’t used in the last month. I then took the leap and uninstalled Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – some of my most chatty apps that seemed to be wanting to run all the time. I figure if I need to run these I can run the mobile internet versions. Well guess what? My Tab runs like a champ again. Much more responsive and much more stable. I can actually use the device again. I still have a few dozen essential apps on the device that I use regularly and I still have apps that like to start all by themselves but I no longer have the sluggish performance.
Whether my social apps were the culprits here or not I guess I’ll never know but for now, I am back to being a happy user and more importantly I feel am a little less likely to be “leaking” data out into the cloud as I use the device.