Third-party apps are programs that you install on your Windows PC or mobile devices, usually from unofficial sources. They can be helpful, but they also come with a lot of risks and dangers.
In this article, we will discuss what third-party apps are, how they work, and the risks associated with them.
What are Third-Party Apps?
On your Windows computer, you use many applications for your work and entertainment. Many of those applications might not necessarily be from Microsoft, the manufacturer of your OS. For example, Google Chrome web browser. It is a product from Google. This is what a third-party application is known as.
The third-party apps are created by developers who are not the manufacturer of the device or the operating system on which it is being installed. If they are good and without any security or privacy risks, the manufacturer might enlist them in their official app store for users to download. However, if downloaded from external, unknown sources, the security issues involved in using third-party applications on your computer are very high.
Types of Third-Party Apps
There are different types of third-party apps. Some of them can be useful, while others pose a threat to your device. It is very important that you know exactly what type of app you are about to install on your Windows PC, so you can prevent the security risks involved in using it.
Here is how third-party applications can be categorized:
Third-party Apps created for Official App stores
These are the apps that are created by developers who are not associated with the manufacturer but still want their products to be compatible with the device. For example, WinRAR, Facebook App, and others. These third-party apps can be installed from official app stores like Microsoft Store, Google Play Store, or Apple App Store.
Third-Party Apps created for Wider Availability
Some OS might not be compatible to work on every hardware. For example, Android apps can be only be installed and run on particular compatible devices. To counter this, some third-party apps are created so that they will work on different platforms. For example, Bluestacks or Andy. These apps are designed for Windows users who want to access the services of other platforms like iOS and Android on their Windows PCs.
Third-Party Apps created for Distribution
These third-party applications might be available in official app stores, but they are mainly distributed through unofficial sources like adware or PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). These come as add-ons with some primary programs, which users accidentally install.
What should be considered before installing third-party apps?
Before you download and install a third-party app, it is vital that you consider how it works. Since they are not created by the same manufacturers of your device, there might be compatibility issues or even security risks involved.
It is important to know how the third-party app will communicate with your device so that you can be sure it won’t affect the performance of your Windows PC.
If the third-party application has low system requirements, then its usage won’t significantly affect the performance of your Windows PC or other devices. However, if the application requires specific drivers or hardware, then compatibility problems are likely to occur when you install it on your Windows PC.
To summarize, before downloading or installing a third-party application, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the purpose of this app? Do I really need it?
- How will it be used? For what purpose?
- What are the system requirements of the app? Will it affect my Windows PC performance if installed?
- Is this third-party app available on an official or unofficial channel?
- How does this third-party app communicate with my device to perform its tasks? Does it need specific hardware, Bluetooth/WiFi drivers?
- Will this third-party app require access to my personal information, device data, and other sensitive data?
- What can I lose if I install this third-party app on my device?
Why do people download third-party apps?
There are a number of reasons why people install third-party applications on their Windows PC. Some of the most common ones include:
To Utilize the Full Potential of the OS
People download third-party apps to make the most of their operating systems. They want to get the maximum functionality out of their device by using third-party applications which are not present in it. For example, you can’t use Android apps on your Windows computer, but you can install third-party emulators like Andy or BlueStacks for that. Your device might be capable of performing many things, but the official first-party apps are not enough to utilize its every functionality.
To try out New Apps
Well, because there are not many apps available in official stores. We all want to try new applications which are designed for our devices but not officially available. There is a massive demand for such third-party apps. However, such apps possess significant risk of malware infection.
To Avoid Limitations
Sometimes, users want to avoid the limitations that they face with the official apps. Most of the time, third-party apps offer more functionalities than official ones. Let’s take the example of the camera app of your phone. Your phone’s camera app just does basic things like clicking pictures and making videos. It can also provide different modes like night mode, wide-angle, etc. That’s it, nothing extraordinary. However, apps like Snapchat and B216 can do a lot more than just click pictures and shoot videos through the camera. They provide features like AI filters and a lot more.
To Improve the Appearance of Your Device
Sometimes, users install third-party applications in order to customize their devices. They want their phone or tablet to look different than the other ones. Apps like Gboard bring in major changes that can give your Android phone a new and refreshing look. You might be using the stock Android keyboard on your phone, but it is still the same old keyboard. If you want to give your device a new and fresh appearance, then a third-party app like Gboard can help you with that.
To Access Blocked Apps
Although Google Play Store and Apple App Store work well in maximum regions, they might not be available in specific areas or countries. To access the blocked apps, users have to download the apps from third-party sources.
What are the best third-party app stores?
For Windows Operating System:
- Softonic: This is one of the most popular third-party app stores. It offers a clean interface and a rich collection of apps. It is free to use, but it has advertisements in its large portal.
- Ninite: This is a free third-party app store. It has a huge number of apps available for download, and it also does not contain any viruses or malware.
- FileHippo: This is another popular third-party app store for Windows PC. It contains a lot of apps that are not available on other websites. The free version of FileHippo has popups, but it does not contain any malware or viruses.
- Amazon Appstore: This is one of the most popular Android app stores. It has a huge number of apps and games that you can download for free.
- Samsung: This is an exclusive store for Samsung users. If you own a Samsung phone, then it makes sense to get your hands on its exclusive app store.
- F-Droid: This is a free app store without any advertisements. It only offers open-source apps that are legally available for download.
- APKMirror: This is a website that collects all the apps from different Android app stores. It offers easy access to third-party applications, and it does not contain any malware or virus.
- TutuApp: This is one of the most popular third-party app stores for iOS. It offers a rich collection of apps that you can download as well as games. It is available for free on TutuApp official website.
- Appland: This is another third-party app store for iOS. It has a good number of apps and games that you can freely download without any hassle.
- AppCake: This third-party app store requires Jailbreak on your Apple device before using it. After jailbreaking, you can use AppCake to get all the unofficial apps on your phone.
How can third-party applications be harmful?
It is natural for people to have concerns about third-party app stores. Even if you are downloading the genuine app from external sources for your device, there are always some dangers involved.
Malware and Viruses: One of the biggest concerns about third-party app stores is malware or viruses present in them. Also, apart from malware and viruses, you can also expect adware and Trojans to be present in third-party applications. Even if the app store claims that it does not contain any viruses or malware, it might lie.
Spyware: When you are installing an app from a third-party source, there are chances that it is spying on you. There have been many reports of hackers spying through third-party apps without users’ knowledge. Some of the most common ways include keylogger installation or showing ads based on user preferences.
Data Leakage: Users need to know whether the app they are using collects their personal data illegally. If it does, there are chances that data will end up with marketers or even cybercriminals.
Inappropriate Content: The content present in the app store is another source of concern for users. There are chances that some apps might include inappropriate material that can be a threat to kids as well as adults. So it is better to keep an eye on what you are installing on your device.
It has been established that using a third-party app store can be beneficial but not free from risks and dangers. Users should always look for official stores or trusted sources before downloading any app or game on their devices. There might be circumstances when you have to use third-party app stores forcefully, like when official apps or app stores are banned.
However, it is better to be on the safer side by installing apps only from trusted sources or verified app stores. You must ensure to download apps that are free of malware and viruses so that your device does not get compromised at any point. Install an antivirus on your device to protect it from viruses and malware.
Third-party app stores are dangerous because they might list out fake, infected applications to download in the name of genuine applications.
To uninstall a third-party application from iPhone, navigate to Settings -> General -> iPhone Storage -> select the app you want to delete -> Delete App.
Peter is an Electrical Engineer whose primary interest is tinkering with his computer. He is passionate about Windows 10 Platform and enjoys writing tips and tutorials about it.