October 26, 2014

Is aTrackDog a Flawed App?

There’s an app that’s been around in the Android Market that is designed to check your installed apps and inform you if there’s a new version.  While most applications check themselves for updates either automatically or manually, it is nice to have one singular place to look.

There is a very interesting way of how the app works; It checks everybody else and their handsets to see if someone has a newer version and then it tells you.  Oh, all of this goes through their servers.  On paper this all sounds very good, but in practice it opens itself up to all kinds of potential problems.

The first issue that arises is that if anyone out there happens to be a beta user, they throw a wrench into the whole thing.  Let’s say you are part of a development team and want to test some new features out on your personal handset.  Well, if you have aTrackDog installed on your phone, you just goofed the system up.  Everybody else is going to be told that a newer release is available. Then the emails and questions start coming in. It won’t be just the developers that get these emails, but A0Soft could be on the receiving end of these questions, with users wanting to know what’s going on.

The makers of ShopSavvy are one of the companies that have seen their share of emails and issues with this. Currently, they have a public beta version of 3.0.4 available, in addition to the current 3.0 that most have.  Yet people are now being told that 3.0.5 is out. The problem is it’s an internal alpha release being tested.

When Rylan contacted A0Soft, they advised that ShopSavvy’s beta users need to check a box to not track what version they are using. Imagine having to tell your users that they need to go into another application and check a box because it messes things up for everyone else. And if just one person doesn’t check that box… well, you know what happens.

Rylan exchanged several emails with ‘Gasolin’ at the company who makes aTrackDog who suggested that we need ask our beta users to click ‘Not Track this version’ in the aTrackDog settings.  Rylan tried to explain that we have no control over what our beta users do or do not do.  If a single beta user fails to select ‘Not Track this version’ in the aTrackDog settings ALL aTrackDog users will get a notice that they are missing an update and the emails will start again.

Another problem could come once there are thousands of Android apps out there.  Are the servers that
A0Soft Inc. has going to be strong enough to handle the burden?  What happens when there are hundreds of beta and private versions being tested?  Is A0Soft Inc. prepared to handle all of the emails coming from users and developers with questions and complaints?

It’s highly possible that this app might be mining information. How many people have installed App “X” or are using version 3.2? There’s nothing quite as valuable as knowing numbers and usage of your own apps as well as the competitors.

Almost all of the apps we’ve installed so far on our G1 have the option to check for updates. Over half of the stuff we run automatically notifies us of new versions upon loading. At one point, a few of us had aTrackDog installed on our handset, yet removed it once we realized that it was somewhat useless.

We can’t say whether or not the makers of aTrackDog are malicious in their intent.  We’d like to think that they have their best intentions in mind.  Maybe their app wasn’t though out fully for the long term.  As an app that showed up in the early days of the Android Market, it’s fine to keep people up to date with the ever changing app landscape.