5 things you should never pay for on Android

by: Simon HillMay 16, 2014

dollars money 401(K) 2012

The idea that the best things in life are free is true up to a point. So why do some people pay for things they don’t really have to? We’re not talking about piracy here, but there are premium apps and services out there that simply don’t offer anything over the best free examples. Anyone that regularly goes over their allowance can also drastically reduce their mobile phone bills with a smidgen of forethought.

Here are a few things that just aren’t worth paying for:

Overage charges

When people mostly used call minutes and texts it wasn’t unusual to get unlimited data, but as we suck down more MBs the carriers have switched to unlimited calls and texts with strictly metered data. It’s easy to go over your limit and trigger an overage charge, but you don’t need to.

data-40In the past, there were a few apps that kept a watchful eye on your data usage, but Google went ahead and built it into Android 4.0 and above. Just go to Settings > Data usage (you’ll find Data usage under Wireless & Networks on some phones) and you can set your billing period, check out exactly what apps are eating your data, and fix a limit and a slightly lower warning level, so you know when the limit is approaching. If you’ve got an older Android device then try an app like My Data Manager.

You should also use Wi-Fi wherever possible, and you can keep an eye out for free Wi-Fi spots with something like WiFi Finder. A lot of carriers also offer free Wi-Fi hot spots for customers and have apps that will help you to locate them and auto-connect. It’s worth checking.

If you do still have limited call minutes then you could incur overage charges there too. The obvious solution is to check out some VoIP and SIP apps that allow you to make calls and send messages over Wi-Fi for free. There are a couple of apps in the Play Store that track your minutes, but they’re not accurate enough for us to recommend. It’s probably also worth installing your carrier’s app as it will generally at least let you track your usage, if not actually alert you when you’re near your limit.


There are a bunch of competing music services on Android, like Google’s Play Music All Access service that offer unlimited music streaming for $10 (or £10) per month. You don’t really need to pay anything, though, as long as you don’t mind the odd advert. A lot of phones still have FM radio built-in. If you’re online, then you can find just about any station with TuneIn Radio. There are also tons of free music discovery apps like Deezer, Rdio, Soundwave, SoundCloud, and Pandora (if you’re in the US or Australia).

music spotify

The closest to one of the monthly subscription services in terms of flexibility and content is Spotify. It’s completely free to make playlists and play the songs you want on your computer or Android tablet. It won’t let you select a specific song on your smartphone, but you can create a playlist and shuffle play it for free. If you don’t have enough songs in your playlist, it will even auto-fill it with similar tracks it thinks you will like and you can always skip anything you don’t like. The only “cost” is an ad playing every five or six songs.

Security apps

Your risk of exposure to malware or other security threats is low if you never sideload, but we’re not going to get into that. Let’s assume you’ve decided that you want a security app on your phone. There are loads of Android security apps to choose from. How do you pick the best?

Mobile Security and AntiVirus

If you’re looking for something that’s good at detecting malware then head to AV-Test and check their latest Android report. They are an independent organization that actually tests out Android security apps by bombarding them with malware and recording the detection results. They also test the performance and usability, and list out the main features. Something that’s immediately apparent in the results is that the price of security apps has nothing to do with how efficient they are.

You should be aware that the vast majority of free security apps are going to be collecting data, but sadly that’s true of premium security apps as well. In fact it’s true of a lot of apps in general. It’s up to you to decide which companies you put your trust in. If you’re really concerned, then do a little research. In any case, in terms of protection, there is nothing to be gained by paying a subscription fee for a big name branded security app over a free app, or even a free barebones version.

Ringtones and wallpapers

It’s really easy to set your own ringtones or wallpapers on Android. You can use your own photos or download images direct to your phone and select them as wallpapers. For ringtones it’s simply a case of dragging and dropping files from your computer into the right folders (helpfully named Ringtones and Notifications). There’s plenty of free audio editing software to help you make your own ringtones or notification sounds, use something simple like Audacity.

zedge best free android apps

If that’s too much hassle then you still shouldn’t resort to premium services because they’re a rip-off. Try out the Zedge app if you just want to browse a big choice of free ringtones and wallpapers.


People pay for porn… seriously? Why? Whatever your platform, there’s enough free porn out there to satisfy anyone.

What else?

You should pay for apps, developers have got to eat, and piracy is the path to the dark side, but you can make big savings if you use an app like AppZapp or AppSales to uncover deals and get alerts when any apps on your wish list are discounted.

Anything we missed? What money-saving apps or services have you discovered?

  • MasterMuffin

    Well that last section was surprising :D You can get high speed streaming and HD content with just 1€ (2 day trial) in Pornhub! Not that I know, my *cough* friend told me. Great deal

    • VV

      Pornhub is overrated. A bunch of other great free sites exist…or at least that’s what others tell me. :D

      • come on, everyone knows it. Don’t put the blame on others :P

      • Matt Messier

        Agreed! pornhub is garbage. Free access to twistys..? XP.

      • gommer strike

        Mind sharing? :D What all these other friends tell you, of course. Enlighten me. I only know about pornhub :'(

        • RanRu

          There’s a Tumblr for everything.

          Like, everything.

          • gommer strike

            even…*those* things!?? I’ll trust you and try this Tumblr

        • S2556

          Xnxx is good shit lol

        • Ryan Cavitt

          Well if you want good free porn dont go to xhamster.com ;)

          • gommer strike

            well now you’ve done it. everytime someone says “don’t do this”, or “don’t go here”, it’s like seeing an enormous sign on a glass window which says “don’t throw rocks”.

    • Anonymousfella

      Why pay? All the premium stuff you get from subscriptions, is already made available on TPB/ Kickass Torrents. As long as you download from trusted users,no fear of any malware. Plus the updated Utorrent app is also nice…they finally added selective file downloading and save to sd card option. Better deal. :D

      • MasterMuffin

        I don’t pay, just saying :)

        • Anonymousfella

          Smart guy! :P

      • Lucas Teixeira Gouveia

        If only there was a free XPASS, it would be 143 times better

  • I’d actually pay for porn if they sell a good quality 3D games for Android instead of black jack and poker strips, LOLOLOLOL.

  • Me_

    You should not paid for a 4G service when your phone is only a 3G. Worst, you buy a 4G phone and your carrier doesn’t provide a 4G service in your area.

  • yes! it think i will stop downloading those pirated apps,but not music, they earn enough

  • VV

    Never pay for music? No way! I use apps like Pandora and TuneIn Radio to find music I can then get. I used to subscribe to Spotify and Rdio but once you leave the service you’re left with nothing. Sure it was cool to have access to all that music during the time I used it but I’d much rather own it knowing I can listen to it at anytime without paying some monthly fee.

    • whateverdude3450

      lol so naive

      • S2556

        Good point, that completely changes things.

  • Pay for music’s the best way to support an artist just my opinon. If you don’t like to pay and support the composer or artist, it’s up to you.

    • Jason Yuen

      Actually no. Buying media supports the record labels. The actual artist gets very little. If you really want to support them, go pay for a ticket and see their concerts. Their cut is much bigger there.

      • Shark Bait

        Well said!! And I completely live by that method!

      • dogulas

        Or you could just send them money. They would get 100% of that, if being kind to artists is what we’re going for.

      • It’s depends on the record label because some artist are self recording and not using a record label.

        • Scott Hayworth

          Then your statement ‘depends on the record label’ is irrelevant. Want to try again?

      • Michael Samsara

        The problem and fatal flaw in your thinking Jason, is that very, very few groups ever will reach the point where they can have a concert that will actually bring in any money that is worth talking about. The problem is that we live in a world where because of our digital abilities people have come to think that having, obtaining and using all of this lovely proprietary intellectual property is their God given right. It is not. To take someone’s work – whether you covertly download it from a pirate site; or copy a painting by photographing it and not paying the artist is stealing.

        There needs to be put in place a system that makes sure that if people are going to dance they must pay the fiddler. The only way most artists will ever make any money – if they ever do – is if they are able to sell on the internet and generate revenues there and making excuses for the losers who steal their work by saying we should just go to concerts is both totally ignoring the real issue and irresponsible.

        • Jason Yuen

          You are right that the system of compensating artists might be less than what it should be, but that’s because the cost of discovering talent, nurturing it, marketing, producing, manufacturing physical media costs so much. I bet if I were to look on your phone/ipod/music device, I would find at least 90% of the artists are well known and “mainstream”. Those artists have no problem holding concerts. Even big bands started out small and had small gigs to play at. If you are one of those who enjoy new and/or unpopular bands, you can still support them in more effective ways. Evanescence was selling their music on copied CD’s on a table in their early days. I’m not saying record companies are bad. I work for a distributing company that supplies Walmart, Best Buy, Futureshop, with their physical media. I am part of the supply chain that goes into getting product on the shelves. I’m not ashamed to say I download music or “pirate” it. If I like it, I will go out and buy the CD. I won’t get into the legality of that since it’s a convoluted subject that’s different in every country. There are other ways for artists to earn money, but attending their gigs is the most effective way of putting money directly in their pockets.

      • You’re correct about record labels, but i like to support artists on sites like bandcamp.com. They get a much fairer cut and i can set my own price a bit. Plus i get lossless flac files, and no CDs to store.

    • George Av

      Yes and that is why justin bieber is a rich asshole who races lambo’s high of crack…. Look at the artists. NONE of them are hurt by people downloading music without paying for it. Just go look at how much money some of them have.

      • It’s given because he’s talented so that he can make money. They know how to manage they talent, so that he can sell their music easly.

        • Michael Samsara

          Very considerate and thoughtful position Arnold. We live in a world where people think that all of the intellectual content, all the artistic creations – be it paintings, music or whatever – is theirs for the taking because they can copy it with their computers; find an illegal site to download from. No, that content, those creations cost someone their life’s energy, their life’s blood – and all the leeches out their like the ones here saying you are foolish for caring – are stealing. There is no other word for it; stealing, thieves and should be ashamed of themselves. Stay the course Arnold – you are definitely thinking properly and moving in the absolute right direction in terms of building your integrity and ability to judge character.

          In this life, do you what makes someone a super good judge of character? Here’s the answer.

          You are a good judge of character to the exact degree that your own character is good – because YOU are the measuring stick, and if you lie, if you steal – download illegally – what you are doing is chipping away at your integrity, throwing it away and then when it is time to make a value, character judgement – because you have sold your soul so to speak – you no long have the ability to feel and see what a man of good character sees.

      • Michael Samsara

        George, Justin Bieber is what he has become because, he – like Elvis before him and countless others one could cite – is surrounded by greedy handlers and managers who are more interested in keeping their personal gravy trains – which are attached to his locomotive – movin right along.

        Thus, the only advice he gets is their self-serving mis-guidance which points him in the exact direction that they want him to go – irrespective of whether or not it helps or hurts him. Yes, technically he is an adult but who among us – looking back on the less than mature behaviors we all evidenced in our teens or early 20’s – would want to be judged by those actions?

        One of the physical facts of life – and human brain development and maturing – is that until the age of around 24 the ability of young men to properly envision long range negative consequences does not fully develop and is hardly present at all. Thus, we are stupid enough to run off to war and allow ourselves to become cannon fodder when the old fogies who caused the wars – due to their unparalleled ineptitude and incompetence – call us to arms in the name of God, motherhood and apple pie.

        It is also why we end up getting girls – whom we only want to screw for one night and then hopefully never see again as long as we live – in “a family way” with a “bun in the oven” and tied to the bitch for the rest of our lives because she said, “Oh, you don’t need that condom; I’m safe.” Yeah – the check in the mail, I love, I won’t c… in your m….” (Lifted that line from To Live and Die in LA – pretty good movie – hell of a great line.)

        So, the problem is not the money, is not the drugs the problem is that the very people who should be guiding him, reining him and his “boys just wanna have fun” hormones in and helping protect him from himself – are encouraging him by joining in the fun – knowing full well who is going to in the end have to pay the piper – and the legal/repair fees, etc.

        I agree with Arnold – all of these free download of pictures and intellectual properties without compensating fairly the artists is not right and I feel that your comment was both lacking in being circumspect as well as understanding of the situation not to mention – judgemental. I suppose you never fucked up in a big way – in way that you – because you were not in the public eye got away with – and will forever more thank God that no one caught you? If you say no – I will know you are a liar, incidentally.

  • poop

    I cannot believe there’s a porn section. Mr. Hill, you win the internets for today.

  • wezi427

    How come they didn’t have a picture for porn?

    • MasterMuffin

      I was dissappointed too

    • takpro

      Try WWW. everywhereyoulook.com ;-)

      • LibertyGuy62

        Real estate?

        • districtjack

          She’s really a porn broker.

  • uuuh

    performers, directors, producers, camera guys, and everyone else on set have got to eat, too…

  • Anonymousfella

    That last section! XD

  • Dark_Laser

    Since when is Rdio free on mobile?

    • Matt Messier

      Since about January i believe !

  • almost

    Agree on everything but the music.

    We have two subscriptions to GPMAA in our home and came from two subs to Pandora.

  • Ryu

    I hate radio apps and prefer owning music over streaming, and it supports the artists more than streaming (I know so artists don’t get much from it, but I hare concerts, so…). I also consider streaming a pain for relying on internet connection.

  • Nick Gonzalez

    I have no problem paying for Spotify. If anything, just to NOT see ads. We are bombarded with ads all day everyday, so it’s nice to get away.

  • Sal

    I didn’t see that last one coming. Best part of my day!

  • [A]dri[A]n

    That last one definitely caught me off guard Hahaha

  • Will S.

    Did not expect the last one from Android Authority! Anyway, other than going over my data limit, I’ve never paid for any of them, ever.

  • Bombela_Inc©


  • Dalvik

    From app developer perspective, Android is full of free stuff too.

    – You can build android app using cheap old pc and free linux OS. You don’t need expensive Mac OSX or Win8 PC.

    – You can use free compiler/IDE such as gcc, Eclipse, cygwin, etc. No need for expensive and bloated Visual Studio.

    – And the best thing, you can test and deploy app on hardware directly for free. No need for expensive and ridiculous Developer Account.

  • Terpman

    AppGratis also finds free apps. Mostly games, but there’s a gem or two on occasion

  • Elaine SanAngelo

    If you get an Amazon account you can get a free payed app every day

  • smokebomb

    Instead of paying subscription fees for music, take the time to rip and upload your library to Google music. Took me about 3 days to upload everything to Google music (most of it was already ripped or bought as digital).

  • Marsia

    Tunein Radio – I went to read recent reviews by Samsung 3 owners and all say not to install the most recent version. This isn’t the first time you’ve recommended an app and I come to find out the reviews are mostly negative. How can your writers make recommendations without checking out public comments?

  • districtjack

    Amazing how an article about FIVE things has all the comments pointing to porn and music. Android users are not interested in antivirus? Lol

    But I do agree, who the hell PAYS for porn in this day and age.