Ausdroid, like the broader Android community, has typically been a little sceptical of products and services that have tried to make the jump from traditional desktop motifs to the mobile environment. Hot on the heels of a tour through Asia, Ausdroid caught up with Vince Steckler and Ondrej Vlček from Avast in Sydney yesterday for a bit of a chat about their mobile security and utility apps. Some things simply don’t translate from desktop to mobile too well, and anti-virus software has been a big cause of consternation. It’s this that we wanted to discuss with the guys and girls from Avast.
This distrust of such applications is likely due to early attempts to bring anti-virus to the mobile market. In the early days of smartphones (and to an extent, this remains true today) anti-virus truly was snake-oil on mobile devices. There wasn’t a need for it. Apple’s iOS (and Android, to a lesser extent) obviate the need for anti-virus due to the silos that each app operate in; put simply, one malware app can’t really affect anything else, or trash your phone.
These days, though, this isn’t quite so straight forward; those who would cause us harm have limited interest in getting into our mobiles, and far more so in getting us off them, and onto other things. Think about it. A hacker gets into your mobile, what does he get? Your contacts? Your SMS? That’s not nearly as lucrative as tricking you into handing over your internet banking details in a website that looks, seems (and for all practical intents) IS your internet banking site. That’s worth a lot more, and there’s malware out there doing precisely that.
It’s with this in mind that we decided to sit down with Vince and Ondrej to have a chat about what Avast is doing in Android, and what their value proposition is.
In this piece, we wanted to look at their Cleanup app, only because its perhaps the most surprising of the bunch. I’ll admit, I first thought it was bunkum. It seems, as with many things, first impressions can be wrong.
Avast Cleanup makes big promises, admits Vince. He says, with a straight face, that it can save between 500MB to 1GB of data on the average handset, and it can do so without impacting negatively on user experience. While we spoke, I had to try this out, and moments after installing, Cleanup told me it could automatically save me 620MB. I let it do its thing, and bam, it worked.
Some of the things that Cleanup removes include offline maps that Google has cached, cached music, copies upon copies of the same photo and more. That’s just in its automatic mode. Switch it over to the advanced cleaning mode, and you get a very powerful (much moreso than Android’s built in tools) view of where your limited storage space is being used up. You can instantly see large videos taking up room amongst your photo collection. If Facebook is taking up 500MB, you can instantly see that, and do something about it.
The beauty is in the simplicity. Vince likes to make clear that this is truly a one-click app for most users. I made the point that this app doesn’t do things that a user couldn’t otherwise do using other tools, a point that was happily conceded. It’s not that it does something you can’t. Vince points out that it does something that is otherwise tedious and annoying, and does it in a fraction of the time.
Better yet, Avast Cleaner helps automate other tasks which — for non-power users especially — can be a pain in the neck; moving photos and documents to the cloud?
Sure, most of Ausdroid’s readers probably know how to do this, and wouldn’t use a third party tool to do it. But what about our family and friends, you know the ones who ask us whenever we visit how to use “that Dropbox thing”? This tool lets them use that one, and makes it easier. Sadly the app doesn’t integrate with other cloud service providers just yet, such as Google Drive, but one has to begin somewhere.
Cleaner gives the non-power user access to other tools too, in the one place — you can uninstall apps here, in one click, as well as remove app data from apps you know are going to be using up quite a bit. Spotify is the example given, which readily caches offline music.
Avast Cleanup’s interface is nice and clean; it’s not material design by any stretch, but it’s clean and functional, and easy for anyone to pick up and understand. That I was able to install it, figure it out and make use of it while engaged in conversation speaks to the ease of use.
The best bit? Avast doesn’t sell the product. It’s free. It’s not advertising supported, there’s no in-app purchases. It’s just free. Some of Avast’s other products — Mobile Security & Antivirus, for example — do have premium, paid options, but Cleanup doesn’t.
Give it a try, and see what you think. When considering it, though, don’t look at it as a well-educated Android user, because you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did: you can do this fairly easily yourself without an app. Look at it from a somewhat novice smartphone user’s perspective, and think about what it allows that user to do.