1. X-Ray Scanning Apps

There are a few of these floating around, and none of them work. Xray Scanner is a scam (not to be confused with X-Ray Scanner…which is also a scam). These apps just show a pre-loaded picture of a skeletal hand when the camera recognizes your actual hand.

You know why it’s impossible to actually build an X-ray scanner into your phone? Because then your phone would be radioactive. Good luck getting around the FDA (or whoever, you know what we mean) on that design.

X-Ray Scanner Prank/Play Store

Besides, most of these are free apps, which means they’re loaded with ads and exhortations to give a five-star review. The real apps rarely ask for your glowing reviews—they also don’t make your skin glow with excess radiation.

This is too good to be true. It is also not true. If you want an X-ray, talk to a radiologist. Otherwise, save your time and your phone’s storage space and avoid these fake imaging apps.


2. “Beer-Drinking” Apps

What’s the point of “drinking” a beer if it doesn’t get you drunk? Or even taste like anything?

The makers of beer-simulation app iBeer would argue that there’s some comedic effect. When you activate the app, the screen of your phone fills up with a beer animation. Then, when you tilt your phone, the “beer” slowly drains away from your screen, allowing you to create the fun illusion that you’re actually drinking beer out of your phone.

Oregon Live

Maybe that’s funny, like, once. Get your pets involved (“A parrot drinking beer! Now that’s something I never thought I’d see!”) and you might be able to squeeze two or three uses out of this thing.

But banner ads plastered all over the beer animation tend to ruin the illusion. Inexplicably, you can even get an “economy” version of this free app. It’s called eBeer, and it’s exactly like iBeer, but with worse animation. You’ve got better things to do with your phone.

3. Lie Detector Apps

Ever since Google cracked down on fraudulent apps in its Android Play Store in October 2016, shady designers have started at least labeling their fake products as pranks. But that doesn’t mean you won’t still waste valuable time (and even money) downloading these stinkers.


Take Lie Detector Simulator, Lie Detector Prank, and even the unabashedly old-school Lie Detector, which can’t be bothered to kowtow to the Play Store housekeepers. These apps do not detect lies. There is not a way for an app to do that.

If there were, forensic specialists probably wouldn’t be paid $400 a pop for real polygraph tests, which, incidentally, aren’t necessarily accurate themselves.

You’re better off with a Magic 8 Ball, of which there are any number to choose from in the Android Play Store, of course. Why wouldn’t there be? (Ask again later.)

Getty Images News / Dima Korotayev

4. Computer Virus Placebos

Prank apps are dumb, but they’re not harmful. You can’t say the same about fake computer security software. Any doctor who sold fake vaccines would get tossed in prison (unless it is the 19th century and snake oil is involved).

Fraudsters on the Google Play Store, on the other hand, have made tens of thousands of dollars selling malware defense programs that are pure security theater—and not even good theater. Like Doctor Zhivago.

Digital Trends

For a time, Virus Shield was the No. 1 download on the Play Store. It promised things that no app could actually accomplish for a price no developer would realistically charge. The app only cost $4. It promised total defense from all malware ever, in perpetuity.

How do users know it’s working? Well, at first the app displays an X. Tap the X and it turns into a check mark. That’s actually all it does. But it sure looks like it’s working.

Getty Images News / Joe Raedle

Shortly after Virus Shield soared to the top of the Play Store security charts, someone thought to look through the app’s code. They found that the emperor had no clothes.

Shortly thereafter, Virus Shield got the boot from the store, but not before the developers made off with $40,000 in profits. Virus Shield is gone, but imitators are always popping up. Be wary out there. Don’t get stuck with a placebo.

5. Broken Screen Apps

Here’s a fun way to amuse your friends. Tell them your cell phone screen is broken. “Oh, that’s too bad,” they’ll say. “Gotcha!” you’ll say. We hope you caught that on your GoPro. That biz is about to go viral.

Actually, there are a bunch of apps in the Play Store that create a broken-screen graphic with the touch of a finger. Some even include a little plinking sound effect that suggests you broke your screen yourself.

LosAngeles Night/Google Play Store

Get ready for viral fame, bros. The internet is going to freak when they see you go, “Gotcha,” and your friend is like, “Oh, is that an app?” and you’re like, “Yeah, I got it from the Play Store,” and they’re like, “Oh.”

Pranks. Such funny pranks.

Search for Cracked Screen Prank or Broken Screen Prank to get your YouTube career started, or at least to see a few more ads than you saw yesterday. Whee.


6. Battery Charging Apps

Back when the Play Store was the Wild West (you know, like nine months ago), more than one scam app claimed to recharge your battery when you shake your phone. There is no reason that would work.

Today’s battery charging apps don’t make such ridiculous claims. They just don’t do anything that you aren’t already doing.

Veintodos Apps/Google Play Store

For instance. some of them go through your phone and close apps that are running in the background. That’s nice. That’ll speed up your charge. It won’t make that much of a difference, but it will help a little bit.

Here’s the thing, though. You don’t need an app to do that for you. It’s not hard to close the apps that are running in the background. When you take this task on yourself, by the way, you won’t get bombarded with banner ads. That’s worth an extra swipe or two. Oh, and don’t forget to charge your phone on Airplane mode. That really works, and it won’t take up space on your desktop.

Getty Images News / Sean Gallup

7. Hard Drive-Boosting Apps

Some apps claim to de-fragment your hard drive. That’s silly. Only disc drives benefit from defragmentation. If your cell phone held a disc drive, it’d be the size of an encyclopedia (not the whole thing, just one volume—say “O,” for “Oops”).

Nope, your phone uses flash memory, or a solid state drive, or SSD, or whatever you want to call it. That newish thing. Flash memory uses electricity, not magnetism, to store ones and zeroes. The whole point of defragmentation is to consolidate “fragmented” bits of data.


Solid state drives don’t scatter digital iambs all over the place. They don’t need defragmentation. If you try to defrag your phone, you might end up reducing your solid state drive’s lifespan.

Android defrag apps are phonies. Don’t waste your time or your money. Don’t believe the positive reviews. Chalk those up to either the placebo effect or company plants. That is, reviews planted by the company, not like a pothos or a succulent.

The Sill 

8. Fake Dating Apps

Alright, we get it. You’ve had it with Tinder. Even Bumble gets old. Grindr’s alright, but it does tend to limit your options if you’re not on that team.

There’s a good reason to stick to these old standbys, though. Plenty of “free” dating apps on the Google Play Store actually offer a fountain of in-store charges. Or else they’re full of ads. Either way, “free” is a misnomer.


Even worse, some of these services piggy-back onto real dating apps. They just aggregate the data for you. You won’t find anything that you wouldn’t find on one of the apps that has spurned you.

Nope, the world is what it is. Dating is dating. Dating apps are dating apps are dating apps. The answer isn’t a new app that promises the moon, only to deliver a reflection. The answer is probably to update your profile. Also, study grammar. People on dating sites hate bad grammar.