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Friday, Aug 07, 2020

Another Indian tool to detect Chinese apps gets removed from Google Play

Chinese App Detector racked up more than 500,000 Android installs before Google takedown. Google previously banned another app designed to remove Chinese apps from smartphones

India banned 59 Chinese apps last week, but there are still plenty of other apps from China available in the country. Over the past few days, many have been downloading an Android tool that promises to help them hunt for Chinese apps in their phones and take “action accordingly.” Now that tool is no longer available.

Chinese App Detector racked up over 500,000 installs before it was taken down on Friday afternoon, according to Google Play. The app still works for users who already have it on their phones.

The app description and the app itself are both laden with grammatical errors, but there is no ambiguity in what the it’s designed to do. There’s only one button to tap when you open the app. Pressing it reveals a list of Chinese apps found on your phone.

We tested the app with a Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite. As promised, it was able to dig out big names such as WeChat, Weibo and Baidu Maps. Xiaomi’s Zili video and Meitu’s BeautyPlus – neither of which are currently banned by the Indian government – were scooped up as well. But it also missed a number of obvious Chinese apps such as Alipay, Bilibili, iQiyi and NetEase’s hit game Identity V.

(Alipay is owned by Ant Financial, an affiliate of South China Morning Post owner Alibaba.)

The short-lived rise of Chinese App Detector follows the demise of Remove Chinese Apps – another Android app designed to purge your phone of apps made in China. The latter became a top-trending app in India in early June, scoring a whopping 5 million installs before it was abruptly removed from Google’s app store. Both apps apparently violated Google rules banning most apps that encourage or incentivise users to remove or disable other apps unless they are part of a verifiable security service.

It’s true that users can’t delete any Chinese apps directly from inside Chinese App Detector. And the app store description only mentioned that it can find Chinese apps. The app developer Workholics Infocorp, however, posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, “We have started again a campaign to boycott Chinese apps from every indians [sic] mobile phone.”

We reached out to Workholics, but didn’t receive a response.

Tension between China and India reached its highest point in decades after a deadly military clash along their shared border last month. Anti-China sentiment has also soared among Indians in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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