How Motorola is trying to limit the harm of problematic Android apps

Using data collected from its devices' Motoblur UI, the company believes it can soon offer proactive remediation

Of all the Motorola Android devices that are returned, 70 percent come back because applications affect performance, Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility, said during a webcast presentation at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Technology conference on Thursday. Because the Android Market is open, shoddy apps find their way into users' hands, draining battery life, slowing the smartphone to a crawl, and otherwise turning off Android buyers.

"For power consumption and CPU use, those apps are not tested. We're beginning to understand the impact that has," Jha said. Although Google does remove applications that are found to be malicious, there is no mechanism for ensuring that applications perform efficiently.

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So, faced with the reality of the Android Market, Motorola is trying to turn lemons into lemonade, such as wanring users when an app could drain the battery or hider performance, so users have a chance to prevent the problem -- and Motorola would suffer fewer product returns.

Motorola's mechanism is its Motobblur UI, which started as social-networking hub on most Motorola phones but now serves a broader purpose, Jha said. And with 10 million users using Motoblur, Motorola now has enough data to proactively engage with applications and users. "It's beginning to get interesting," he said.

Motoblur collects information about customer use of applications and how that use relates to functions like power consumption. With that data, Motorola learns which applications drain power. "We are getting to the place that we should be able to warn you," Jha said. He envisions presenting a notice to users when they launch an application alerting them that using the application will drain 35 percent of the phone's power, for example, he said. The user can then decide to continue or conserve power.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for the IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com.

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