The worst Android apps to ever grace the Play Store
There are a lot of bad Android apps out there. You can find them at any point with a quick search. Many developers put up subpar work trying to compete with larger or more talented developers, resulting in an endless supply of watered-down clones, apps that look like someone published a coding tutorial, and plenty of other misfires that stand to only make the good apps look better.
However, some apps are “bad” in a different kind of way. Bad enough to leave a mark on the Play Store. You probably know most of these. After all, problematic software gets talked about as much as, if not more than, comparatively good software. We dug into the hall-of-fame offenders and picked out the worst Android apps of all time. Here they are.
Please note, there are hundreds of thousands of apps and clones that are just flat-out bad for many reasons. We chose not to include them due to their lack of impact on general society. Plus, many of those apps never see north of 1,000 downloads and simply aren’t visible enough to matter.
The worst Android apps
Amazon Prime Video
Price: Free with in-app purchases / $8.99 per month / $139 per year
Amazon Prime Video is a case study on how not to do a streaming service. The app officially launched in 2014. However, it would be another three years before it was actually on the Play Store. You had to sideload it via Amazon’s Appstore, requiring two app installs instead of one. Updates occurred in the Amazon Appstore too, meaning you couldn’t just get rid of it after you had Prime Video installed.
Amazon did a poor job making Prime Video competitive after that. It was the last of the large streaming services to support Google Chromecast and Android TV. Official support was added in 2019 after a very long, very public beef between Amazon and Google. All said, it took Amazon five years to get their product on an Android TV-powered television or a Chromecast. Today, the public openly criticizes a new streaming service for not having those features at launch.
Amazon did almost everything wrong with Prime Video for over half a decade.
Sadly, the app has other issues littered in its past too. For example, it took five years before Amazon started using a filter to show subscribers content they can stream without additional purchases. That made it rough for folks to find stuff to watch for “free” on a streaming service they were already paying for.
In 2022, Amazon Prime Video is actually a decent video streaming service. It just took over half a decade of hilariously irritating mistakes to get it there. We would expect that from a small or new company, but not from Amazon.
Cheetah Mobile apps
Price: No longer available
Cheetah Mobile is one of the sleaziest, most unethical developers in the history of software development. Most of the company’s apps were bad for various reasons. Let’s start with the obvious one, Clean Master. It was one of the original apps that claimed to make your phone run cooler and faster by shutting down background apps and doing other mysterious things.
The app actually shut down apps, but it ended up causing more harm than good. In short, background apps in Android simply open back up after you shut them down, so using an app to do this actually decreased battery life and performance as your phone closed and restarted all background processes over and over again. Clean Master was downloaded one billion times. That’s billion, with a B. Equally pointless clones account for billions more. It’s a literal plague in the Play Store that continues to this day.
Cheetah Mobile is obviously the worst developer in Google Play history.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Cheetah Mobile was involved in multiple controversies over its excessive and abusive user tracking policies. In addition, the company allegedly used bots to simulate real people to defraud ad partners out of money. There are also allegations of working with shady ad agencies.
And then there are the other, smaller things. Badland (Google Play) was one of the best platformers of the early 2010s. Developer Frogmind released an excellent, premium sequel on iOS, but farmed out the Android version to Cheetah Mobile. Cheetah Mobile turned it into an ad-filled, microtransaction-heavy mess that wasn’t even close to the iOS version.
Luckily, Cheetah Mobile is no longer with most of us. Google banned the company and its apps (including AnTuTu) from the Play Store back in 2020, citing a poor user experience. We think that’s the tamest and most polite way of saying what kind of experience Cheetah Mobile provided.
ES File Explorer
Price: No longer available
ES File Explorer was once one the greatest apps of Android’s early days. It was an excellent file browser, years ahead of its time, and powerful enough to easily be among the best in the category. The app was basically the Nova Launcher of file browsers. We recommended it to people for years in our best lists. Life was good.
Then, in 2016, the developers released one of the worst updates we’ve ever seen. They not only introduced intrusive advertising into the free version of the app, but they also started adding phone booster features which, as we described above, don’t work. However, it was still okay because the pro version removed the advertisements and the booster features were easy enough to disable and ignore.
Things went further south after that. The intrusive advertising sent ads to phone lock screens. That was eventually removed, but the sour taste never really went away. Then, in 2019, a fairly significant security flaw was uncovered. Later, the app’s developer, DO Global, was accused of click fraud, the same kind that got Cheetah Mobile in hot water a year earlier. Google Play took the opportunity to put ES File Explorer on the ban list.
Few products had a fall from grace like ES.
But it somehow gets even worse. The app was then banned in India when the country went on its Chinese app ban spree in 2020. And even though you can still download ES from the official website, it now costs $9.99 per month (after a free trial) for the premium version — a delightfully stupid change the developers made later in 2019.
There are many shady apps that don’t appear on this list. However, none of them were once considered among the top ten best Android apps of all time at one point. ES File Explorer’s fall from grace was truly one of a kind.
Read more: The best Android file explorer apps
Facebook’s many apps
Facebook’s official app has always been troublesome, even from its humble beginnings over a decade ago. Let’s start early. Until the mid-2010s, the iOS version of Facebook was a lot better than the bugged, slow, battery-intensive resource hog that was the Android version. There are varying reports as to why, but Mark Zuckerberg blames Google. He said Google bought out the developers that were making the Android version of the Facebook app and that hindered Facebook’s progress.
Of course, the current Android version works basically identically to the iOS version, so things eventually worked out in that regard. That doesn’t mean we’re done here by a long shot. There are plenty of other things that make Facebook one of the worst. Let’s start with some basics. Finding any setting is a giant pain and Facebook has a penchant for resetting your app settings after updates sometimes.
Facebook’s app has always been considered a necessary evil for most of its users.
The UI is cluttered, there are tons of ads, and it’s already used 900MB of data on my three-week-old Galaxy S22 Ultra. The app takes up about 1GB of storage as well. Years ago, Facebook separated Facebook Messenger into its own bloated, resource-heavy app that is required if you want to message people. And if there is anything worse than one Facebook app, it’s two of them.
Price: No longer available
I love talking about Facebook Home. It was one of those app experiences that you knew was going to be bad the moment it hit the market. The app was an Android launcher that took over your home screen and put the least enjoyable content on Earth on it: Facebook posts. How could it not be doomed from the start?
The home screen was basically just Facebook updates from your friends. The app drawer was laggy, there was no widget support, very little customization, and most of the Facebook Home settings resided in the official Facebook app where settings menus go to die. It was just a scaled-back version of Facebook with an app drawer and it was every bit as miserable as it sounds unless you were some kind of Facebook fanatic.
Facebook Home was very bad. We have no idea what Facebook was thinking with this one.
That said, Facebook Home did give us one gem. As part of the preparation for the Facebook Home launch, Facebook added chat heads to Facebook Messenger. Unlike Facebook Home, people actually quite liked chat heads and they eventually became a native Android feature. Yes, dear readers, Facebook Home is where Android 11’s chat bubbles came from.
See better options: The best Android launcher apps
Price: No longer available
Google Allo was a pretty terrible app. A lot of people tried to see the silver lining when it first launched, but Allo’s chief competitor, Google Hangouts, was better in virtually every way. Sure, in terms of pure functionality, Google Allo wasn’t terrible; it did work and it served its purpose. However, the problem went a little bit deeper.
Google Allo signaled the beginning of Google’s identity crisis in the mobile messaging space. By the time it was done, there were six messaging apps in total and five of them are currently shut down. You could easily put any of them on this list. Google Allo was just the first one to fail.
Google Allo was the beginning of a long string of bad decisions from Google’s messaging crew.
Plus, Allo lacked features and Google dragged its feet when it came to adding them. The chatbot function was underwhelming, and that’s putting it politely. At the time, Hangouts had SMS support along with data chat support and Allo had neither. Allo’s web UI came out way too late and on too few platforms.
This is one of those apps that never really had any momentum. Interest took a dive a little over a week after launch and the app took a very long time to die. It was the big-name release that was supposed to catapult Google to WhatsApp heights. In the end, it was just an embarrassment that wasn’t even very fun to use.
Google Pay’s inclusion on this list is a sensitive subject because the service was good for a number of years. Sure, it had some missteps, like not letting root users actually use the app, but for the most part, it was reliable, good, and easy to use.
Then, Google did a full redesign in 2021 and everything changed. The new app has a ton of problems and the transition from the old version was terrible. Let’s list some of the stuff people don’t like about the new Google Pay. It doesn’t have website support at the time of writing. You have to create a new account with your phone number to send money. Your friends need an account to receive money. None of your Google Pay contacts transferred over, and Google Pay charges you a fee to send money via a bank card.
Google Pay went from one of the best money services to one of the worst in less than 24 hours. There was a huge upheaval in the Google Pay team after that. Dozens of employees and executives left after the redesign and Google even canceled its plans for a bank account in October 2021. Google hasn’t done much to fix the issues yet, so it gets to stay on this list.
Hardware companion apps
Price: Most of the bad ones are no longer available
Back in the dark ages, you needed apps to manage a lot of hardware that you don’t need apps for now. One of the most notable and memorable examples is the MOGA controller. You needed the MOGA Pivot app to connect the controller and then you could open your game and play. It was intrusive, annoying, and didn’t work half of the time. There is a reason Bluetooth controller support took so long and that’s because it was originally really bad.
This was true for a long time. Many companies have cleaned up their acts, but you can still find examples today. For instance, some cheaper, off-brand drones have barely functional apps that consistently disconnect from the drone and are slow to respond to basic commands. Traditionally, non-smart tech seems to suffer the most from this problem. Take this fish finder companion app. It flat out doesn’t work well when you’re out on the water and have a poor signal. Even big companies like LG can miss the mark on companion apps for accessories.
Big Tech had this problem years ago, but most brands have figured it out — more or less. After all, smart thermostats like Nest and Ecobee have very functional apps. However, as more and more companies go smart, we are seeing the same mistakes repeated over and over again with each new generation of smart tech. It’s frustrating because people just want their stuff to work.
Move to iOS
Move to iOS is more of a funny app than a bad one, but we think few people will argue about its inclusion here. It was Apple’s first app on Android and its goal was to transfer data from your Android phone to your iPhone. The Android community responded in kind and Move to iOS still has more one-star reviews than any other rating.
Here’s the other thing: the app actually isn’t very good. Apple is used to developing for a small number of devices while Android has no shortage of devices. Thus, the app is intensely buggy on most phones. Users spend days trying to get their data to transfer without success.
Some people are transferring tons of photos and videos from one phone to the next (even though there are more efficient ways, like Google Photos or Amazon Photos). It’s simply a bad app and Apple doesn’t seem too motivated to make it work on Android phones.
Many Official apps
Official apps for businesses have the same issue as hardware companion apps. Big companies have more or less ironed out their bugs so you can find examples of good official apps, such as the official Star Wars app. Go one step down, though, and you can find some real clunkers.
For example, the NHL has a pretty good official app. You can find news sorted by teams, and there are things like stats, schedules, and more. Meanwhile, the official AHL app is pretty bad. You can watch AHL games, but the full-screen mode doesn’t work well, with consistent app crashes and a lack of overall features. It’s a professional sports league, you would expect better, right?
You can find a bunch of examples. The official apps of many local news organizations, like Cleveland.com or the Times of London Puzzles app, are quite bad. Similarly, local business apps can be hit or miss when it comes to quality. It’s impossible to list all of the examples, but you would think if a company was going to go to the effort to create an app, it would at least get it right, especially in 2022.