Monday, 11 July 2011

Backup your old apps, because newer is not always better

There's a site called with old versions (duh!) of programs for Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Unfortunately doesn't have old versions of Android apps. Maybe they'll have 'em in the future, but for now the place to get older editions of Android apps is on Android forums of ill repute.

In a perfect world we could simply reload old app versions from the Android Market. Idea for Google: add a "revert to previous version" button to the Market. But the Android world is far from perfect. Apps on the Android Market come in one flavor only: the newest version. Even if the newest version doesn't work for you.

Why be old skool?

There are many good reasons for using an older version instead of the latest edition. The new version of your favorite app is too bloated to run on your underpowered vintage Droid. New versions may ask for more permissions than you want to give them or come with new obnoxious advertising (the APNdroid disaster comes to mind). Or they introduce new bugs that crash your phone. And sometimes good apps are simply removed from the market by its maker or by Google.

Some examples:

Google Maps recently added two experimental features: public transport navigation and map downloading for offline use. Sounds great, but the new version froze, crashed, and sometimes the only way to get my phone running again was to pull out the battery for a rock-hard reboot. Reverting to the previous version means no new features for the time being, but without a backup of the old version I wouldn't have been able to use Google Maps at all until Google irons out the bugs. Later updates came with fresh new bugs, like the mysterious disappearance of your contacts from Google Navigation.

Skype recently added video calling. Great for cyber sex, but useless if your phone doesn't have a second camera on the front. And anyway, video calling gets old real quick. Years ago I played with video calling on my ancient Nokia, but then the novelty wore off and now my front-facing camera is lonely and neglected. Of course I could have kept the new Skype version and ignore the video call options, but it also came with a new dumbed down interface that is a step back from the good old tabbed layout. So for the time being I keep the old version.

GO Launcher EX is a great Android launcher. Unfortunately it suffers from featuritis. New versions add features and clutter of little or no value, and stability suffers. Some older versions of GO Launcher EX outperform some new editions.

And then there's Facebook. In my opinion its mobile website is way better than the app, but the app has one feature that I like: the Facebook phonebook folder. This folder contains all your Facebook friends who're stupid enough to trust Facebook with their phone numbers. It's an easy way to store the numbers of your fellow Facebook friends and enemies without cluttering your stock phone book app. But only if you stick with Facebook 1.5.2, because this useful feature was removed in later versions.

Go to a museum, or make your own

Since there is no reliable repository of older app versions you'll need to take matters in your own hands. Titanium backs up your app settings so you don't need to go through all the configuration screens again when you reinstall. MyBackup, ES File Explorer, Astro and other apps can also back up your APKs. For most features you'll need a rooted phone.

Titanium Backup
ES File Explorer

If you trust forums like iPmart, OPDA, and Noeman, you can download old app versions from their sites. These forums are like a museum of vintage app versions. Just keep in mind that there's also quite a bit of questionable stuff over there. Of course some people might consider that an advantage.

• list of apps, review sites, and app forums on android underground

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  1. Speaking of backing up your apps. Back up your Market app before you get the ugly Metro-looks!

  2. Backing up the market sounds like a good idea, because the new market lacks the "just in" tab.