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5 things you should never pay for on Android

Why pay when you don't have to? We take a look at five things you should never pay for on the Android platform and discuss the free services, features, and apps that deliver.
May 16, 2014
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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.

In 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?