Five tools for finding, taming, and eliminating rogue apps and files

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One of the advantages of Android’s open ecosystem, and its central app repository, the Play store, is that any developer can jump right in. Brilliant apps can be conceived, and easily marketed to hundreds of millions of potential customers by anyone with a little imagination and know-how.

Unfortunately, this spontaneity and openness is also one of Android’s disadvantages. Apps that are not carefully constructed can and do go “rogue,” tying-up resources such as CPU power, battery-life, expensive wireless data, and your limited storage space.

Conveniently, for every lame app causing problems, there’s a gaggle of apps ready to help out. Here’s a look at the best tools for identifying which of your installed apps are bad phone citizens (and possibly deserving of deletion), plus utilities which let you curtail mischievous apps that you want to keep.

Watchdog Task Manager

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Occasionally, an app will fail to release resources when it’s supposed to, or it will run uncontrollably, grabbing all the processing power it can get its dirty claws into—to the detriment of other, more well-behaved apps.

Watchdog Task Manager ($3.50) allows you to identify individual apps that often go out of control, and then set processor thresholds to kill it automatically if it misbehaves again.

Opinions on “task killer” apps are mixed at best. These days, killing and restarting apps does more harm than good to your battery life. But there are times when an app isn’t doing what it’s supposed to and thus shouldn’t be left in the background.

It’s great for frequently problematic apps that you simply can’t delete, or to tide you over while you wait for an update to fix an errant app’s CPU usage problem.

Juice Defender Ultimate

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Android has included an app-oriented battery-use monitoring tool since the get-go.

However, it’s never let you tweak an individual app’s power slurp-rate. Juice Defender Ultimate, ($5) allows you to nobble battery-draining components like Wi-Fi on an app-by-app basis.

Got a hungry app, like some games are? Then automatically turn-off connectivity when the app is running to reduce juice burn-rate. You can use this app to curtail individual app data consumption too.

3G Watchdog Pro

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Later versions of Android, including Jelly Bean and KitKat, have native data usage statistics and controls in the Settings area.

If you’re using an older device, or you just want more granular information, there are apps to track data usage on a per-app basis. 3G Watchdog Pro ($3) is one of the better ones; it can give you detailed info on how much data each app is using, of which type (cellular or Wi-Fi), and predict how much you’ll use by the end of your billing cycle. With it, you can identify data hogs and restrict them to Wi-Fi usage only.

Or, use Juice Defender Ultimate (see above) to block an individual app’s connectivity altogether.

Storage Analyser

rogue storage analyser

If you’re scratching your head wondering where all of your device storage has gone, the answer may be that it’s being soaked up by excessively large apps and media files.

Ever-expanding, unwanted phantom files can hog memory. Culprits can include things like giant, automatically replicating thumbnail indexes—some of which may be too big to even open.

Storage Analyser (free) provides a bar-chart visual representation of files, biggest file at the top.

Viewing files and folders like this lets you see excessively large apps too—perhaps abandoned games, orphaned app remnants, and also large individual files that have surreptitiously wormed their way onto your device.

Annihilate the evil baddies found in obvious or redundant hide-outs, like in a previously deleted app’s folder.

Frequency Pro

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Think you might be fruitlessly investing excessive amounts of time in an irresponsibly addictive app? Well, you probably are, and Frequency Pro will help you confirm it.

Brand-new Frequency Pro ($1) simply maintains a log of your apps over a period of time, so you can see which apps you’re using the most. The paid version automatically starts on boot.

Use it to identify time-wasters in advance of any radical lifestyle reform. Or, just do a little spring cleaning to remove redundant or hardly-ever-used apps. Of course, some apps are only ever used sporadically (like airline apps only used when flying), but you'd be surprised how much stuff you gather on your phone, use a couple times, and leave to linger in your app drawer. Don't be shy about giving it the boot - you can always re-install it later.

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