Are zombies draining life from your phone?

You might never know: While sitting there happily in the background, a zombie app could easily consume tens of gigabytes (GB) in a month.
You might never know: While sitting there happily in the background, a zombie app could easily consume tens of gigabytes (GB) in a month.

Do I need to remove the head? What about sunlight or a cross?

No, sorry, that is for the Count. These need a different technique. No stake through the heart but definitely a shotgun aimed at the head. Bludgeoning of the cranium seems like hard work and risky but could also be effective.

What? Whoops. When I was asked to write about killing zombies, I thought it was a strange topic for a tech article but started my research on Google Scholar (not a lot of peer-reviewed literature I admit).

Now I understand.

Killing zombie apps!

Zombie apps are definitely a problem in the world of smartphones. When you see the claims from a manufacturer of battery life of 25 hours but you struggle to get through a normal day, you often dismiss it as marketing hype (otherwise known as lies). It may not be just over-promising though. You may have some apps sitting in the background that are draining your battery more than expected.

Why are they draining the battery? That brings the next problem with the zombies on your phone. They may be sitting in the background happily communicating with the outside world. Possibly even costing advertisers money for 'displaying' ads on your phone. Do you really care about a large advertiser being charged for ads you never see? Probably not - until you realise it is your data that the app is using to communicate in the background.

Now it is personal.

When your teenage daughter tells you that she definitely could not have used all that data watching Bachelor on her mobile, she may be telling the truth (but don't dismiss the Bachelor hypothesis completely - we are talking about teenagers here!) While sitting there happily in the background, a zombie app could easily consume tens of gigabytes (GB) in a month.

How is this allowed, you ask? You gave them permission! Remember when you installed that app and it had a bunch of words on screen and you had to accept the conditions to use the app?

What to do?

My first piece of advice is a little boring and will be ignored by most. Read the conditions on the apps you install. You will be amazed and sometimes amused at what they contain.

Secondly, remove the apps you are no longer using. Make sure you remove them from the phone and your cloud backup as well otherwise they might make a re-appearance. If you haven't used the app for a couple of months, chances are you will not notice its removal. If you really want it back, download it again.

The next step is a little harder. Delete accounts for unused services you signed up for. This has typically been a manual process of visiting the Web site of each of those companies and cancelling your subscription or account. There are too many though! Luckily there is an app for that - or at least Web sites to help.

My last piece of advice is a little scary. On a regular basis, start with a clean install on your phone. Make sure all your important data is backed up and then completely wipe your phone back to factory settings and just setup the accounts and download the apps you know that you need. Not only will it help with the zombies but will probably make your phone run a little faster as well.

On the other hand, now that I have done my research, if you do need some help with the zombie apocalypse, which is surely coming, send an e-mail for some further advice to ask@techtalk.digital.

  • Mathew Dickerson is the founder of regional tech and communications company Axxis Technology.