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Summary:

Verizon is now reviewing iPhone and Android apps, but not based on how fun or useful they are. It’s concerned about the resources they consume, which means Facebook and many popular games get docked.

Verizon app ratings feature

Verizon Wireless may have shut down its own app store, but it’s not wiping its hands of app curation entirely. The carrier has started reviewing, rating and recommending Android and iPhone apps to its customers.

What’s interesting about Verizon’s approach is it isn’t making its recommendations based on how entertaining, useful or fun a particular app is. Instead a team of Verizon engineers is looking at each app’s impact on the phone’s battery life, its drain on a customer’s data plan and how loosely it plays with security and customer privacy.

Basically, Verizon is compiling a series of regularly updated recommendation lists. The first is a list of 20 apps available either for Android or iOS that Verizon claims deliver a “best in class” experience on smartphones and tablets. As you might expect, Verizon isn’t being entirely objective in its choices, but it never claimed to be. One of the apps is even Verizon’s own AppLuvr software, which recommends other apps based on what’s already installed on smartphones.

Verizon App rating FacebookThe second list applies a much more visible methodology, rating the top 25 free and top 25 paid apps in Google Play based on three criteria: security, battery consumption and data usage. The third set of reviews is essentially Verizon’s naughty list: 13 apps – all games – that will drain your battery or eat up your data plan at a rapid clip.

Verizon isn’t making any friends here among the game development shops. Enormously popular games like Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja Free and OMGPOP’s Draw Something got bad marks because of their battery drain. Other apps like Facebook Messenger and eBay scored relatively high but were penalized because of their high data consumption.

That may come us a surprise to many users since Facebook and eBay wouldn’t appear to consume that much data, especially compared to streaming multimedia apps like Pandora and Netflix, which received the highest possible Verizon ratings. But what Verizon is likely highlighting here is the persistence of those two apps’ connections. While Facebook might consume only a tiny fraction of the data in a single hour than, say, a Netflix video stream, the social networking app is always running in the background – transmitting a constant stream of signaling traffic over the network and whittling away at your data plan.

Alcatel-Lucent recently analyzed the enormous impact Facebook has on mobile networks through that signaling traffic. On Nov. 15, the social networking giant updated its iOS and Android apps, precipitating a 60 percent boost in Facebook signal load on mobile networks, even though the number of new Facebook mobile users increased only 4 percent in the same time frame. Alcatel-Lucent now estimates that Facebook is responsible for more than 15 percent of all mobile signaling traffic and accounts for more than 20 percent of all network airtime.

Alcatel-Lucent Facebook signaling chart

Carriers have long implored developers to keep the constraints of mobile networks in mind and build more efficient apps. With these rankings Verizon could be upping that pressure, punishing developers who keep developing unnecessarily chatty software.

As you might expect, neither Facebook Messenger or the main Facebook app made Verizon’s list of “must have apps” (though eBay did). Verizon, however, named Facebook’s much more network-efficient Instagram photo-sharing app in its top 20. I doubt Facebook cares either way.

Any time a carrier produces a must-have list you should take it with a grain of salt, but I will give Verizon credit. It actually recommended Tango, an over-the-top voice, video and messaging app that competes directly with Verizon’s core voice and SMS services.

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  1. It’s good to see Verizon offering a usability list, for various apps, like this – while they may have “other reasons” for offering such a list, I’m glad such a list now exists.

  2. This is a huge problem. Most users blame their carrier or phone manufacturer. Both are clueless and their support might as well be scribbles on some bathroom wall.
    No one seems to care that an update (of something) causes problems. Cell makers/carriers need to have a ‘test group’ of power users they can monitor and see which combinations cause trouble. Otherwise users just cuss their provider and live with the issue (or switch carriers). There seems to be no support after the sale. No one cares that you battery life dropped 75% and you change carriers (which fixes the problem because some app you downloaded 3 days ago and are not going to install on the new phone did not get along with Exchange).
    Smart phones are a mess of code and hidden updates. No one seems to want to sort it out. Meanwhile everyone hates their carrier,.

  3. thank goodness for this. I removed the memory, battery, and data hog FB App a couple months ago and now use my browser app–opera, which is easy on resources. Best, I don’t get innundated with unwanted FB ads.

  4. PrepaidWireless Guy Monday, February 11, 2013

    Carriers couldn’t possibly sort out the interactions and issues that hundreds of thousands of apps could have, and the millions of permutations. Sorry, but that’s a ridiculous comment. If you’ve ever called your PC manufacturer with issues, the first thing they’ll do after some very basic troubleshooting is have you restore it to factory conditions. Troubleshooting other people’s software is not feasible. The fact that people switch carriers for such issues is pathetic.

  5. Lakshman Kakkirala Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    It’s common knowledge that most app developers do very little testing. As mobile devices become more and more mainstream and people start depending on it, the current quality simply will not do. App developers have to pull up their socks and do some quality checks of their app, especially how they run in the background and how much drain they cause on my battery.

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