Agriculture Apps: 6 Things To Know Before You Download

So many mobile apps to choose from, so little time. The Apple App Store has more than 775,000 apps, while Google Play is predicted to become the first store to reach the 1 million apps mark by June 2013. Sorting through these massive libraries to find an app that fits your needs can be a bit daunting, to say the least.

Fortunately for agriculture, app overload hasn’t occurred — yet. Once you remove “games” from the mix, a search for farming/agriculture apps results in a manageable number. But as developers continue to crank out more and more apps that help growers and mobile ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently, the pool of available offerings will only deepen — and get increasingly overwhelming.

Still, many people who’ve downloaded apps for agriculture have had a positive experience. Consider these comments from my latest ranking of the best mobile apps in agriculture:

“I love the agSeedSelect app. The Simplot Spray Guide and Agrowdata are good, too. I just downloaded Weed Manager Plus and Extreme Beans and from what I can tell so far they look great.” — Rob Terbock

“Weed Manager Plus has truly been a God-send to me and my business. I am fairly new to this farming thing and the recommendations for weed control have been instrumental in maximizing my farm income.” —Tim Hughes

“I have found Mobile Farm Manager extremely helpful. I will try the others as we approach the spring farming season.” — Tony Russell

While these comments likely represent the norm in the mobile ag app experience, you should still have a thoughtful approach to shopping. So before you download your next app, keep these six things in mind:

1. Consider the source. If you want an app you can trust, go to the source, says Denise Richardson, an identity theft risk management specialist. Always download apps from reputable companies like John Deere or Monsanto. Legitimate applications require you to complete an authentication process, register your phone and create a username and password. Check the user comments and ratings for the app, and make sure you are comfortable with the access permissions granted to the application.

2. Privacy concerns. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, one concern surrounding apps and their ability to share and sell user data is that many don’t have privacy policies. Even when an app does have a privacy policy, the small size of a smartphone screen can make it both difficult to read and understand. Who makes the app? What data does this company collect? How does it store your data? These are the questions you should be asking, and you may be able to find the answers in the app’s privacy policy.

3. Be wary of malware. Not all storefronts are created equally. Although malware incidents are on the rise (particularly on Android phones) according to a report from security firm F-Secure, the majority involve apps acquired from random, untrustworthy Websites. By masquerading as legitimate apps, malware often installs a working version of the program, but one that requests permissions well in excess of what is normally required. If your phone begins performing functions on its own, F-Secure warns, that may be a sign of malware.

4. Look out for data-sucking apps. It’s all about the data. And sometimes it’s difficult to know which app is hoarding it. According to Phys.org, some of the biggest offenders on data usage are movie streaming, music, games and maps, the latter of which is commonly used in precision agriculture. Fortunately, there is an app for that problem. If this is an issue on your data plan, consider installing a data usage tracking app that will send out alerts to help you stay within your data cap.

5. Monitor apps that use the most battery. Battery power on smartphones is always a bit of a crapshoot. If you frequently download agriculture apps (as well as other types), it’s likely some may be running in the background without your knowledge and zapping your battery life. It’s a good idea to regularly check your settings to see how much power each app is using. You can use also Carat. According to TechCrunch.com, this app shows you which apps are sucking up power so you can shut them down and improve battery life.

6. Free vs. paid apps. Most ag-related apps are free, but a handful also have a paid version. Free apps often provide good functionality and features, as well as great service from the developers. Yet, many free apps provide limited functionality. In most cases, the limitations can be lifted by buying the paid version of an app. Regardless of whether the app is free or paid, first ask yourself how often you plan to use it. As a rule of thumb, Android Authority recommends only choosing apps that you will constantly need, particularly if you download the paid version.

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