Google apps resonate with Android users of all ages

by Kristen Nicole

Google will be happy to know that its apps, like Gmail, Maps and YouTube, are amongst the most used on its own Android-powered devices. According to the latest Nielsen report, Google and Facebook apps are the most popular smartphone apps for Android owners 18-years and older in the U.S. The report breaks down app usage according to age categories, and besides the Facebook app, Google apps top the charts across all generations. It turns out, everyone is social, likes to play games, and above all else, loves to shop for more apps.

Interestingly enough, Nielsen included the actual Android Market in its study, which was the most heavily accessed app in every age group (18-24, 25-34 and 35-44). Facebook came in second, while Google Search or Gmail came in third. Google Maps landed fourth place across the board, followed by YouTube. It’s not until you get past the top five apps that some diversity amongst age groups begins to show, with 35-44 year-olds being the most active players of Angry Birds, a game that doesn’t even crack the Top 15 for 18-24 year-olds.

Widespread use of Google’s array of Android apps is certainly a good sign for the company, which builds its platform around the cross-connection of its mobile OS and services. The Android Market could become especially lucrative for Google as it expands the type of content to be directly purchased. In an effort to better compete with iTunes and Amazon’s marketplace, Google’s Android Market now sells books, music and movies (which are also available to rent). For an open source platform, Android’s managed to keep things well in the family, playing out an ecosystem that revolves around its own technology and products.

Google Wallet stores unencrypted data

But not all Google apps are faring well on Android. Google Wallet stores unencrypted data on a rooted device, according to research firm ViaForensics. They ran a test on Google Wallet’s security, noting it properly stores passwords, but fails to encrypt the entire credit card number, balance, card limit, transaction dates, locations and even your card’s expiration date. That puts you at risk for credit card fraud, should a malicious attack access this information. It’s a major concern for Google Wallet’s service, as it’s among the first to truly leverage NFC technology on Android.

“The ViaForensics study does not refute the effectiveness of the multiple layers of security built into the Android OS and Google Wallet. This report focuses on data accessed on a rooted phone, but even in this case, the secure element still protects the payment instruments, including credit card and CVV numbers,” a Google spokesman was quoted in a CNET article. “Android actively protects against malicious programs that attempt to gain root access without the user's knowledge. Based on this report's findings we have made a change to the app to prevent deleted data from being recovered on rooted devices.”

It’s important to note that at least one security issue has been addressed by an update since Google was alerted to ViaForensics’ findings.