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While you’d be hard pressed to find someone who both understands how the internet works and supports the proposed SOPA legislation across the pond, few can deny that the issue of piracy needs addressing somehow.

An interesting illustration of this is the rise in mobile app piracy: because of the typically small file size, and the ability for Android phones to install apps from unknown sources, Android app piracy in particular is booming.

On the day that the web goes dark in protest, we take a look at the Android apps being illegally copied and shared the most. Is your favourite app being stolen around the clock?

Estimating the problem of piracy on Android is a tall order: previous investigations have been based on surveys of developers’ perceptions. Instead, we’ve simply looked at the numbers of seeders, or people sharing the complete file, on the three biggest BitTorrent sites on the web, The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and Kickass Torrents.

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These are the top 10 paid for Android apps being pirated on each (Apps that are free anyway have been disregarded), as of Tuesday 17 January 2012 – the number of seeders is in brackets. Note that these can of course fluctuate (but their proportions are distinct enough to give you a good idea of what’s being pirated the most regardless) as seeders log off, and that this number is absolutely not the number of times an app has been pirated. Let’s take a look.

The Pirate Bay

Grand Theft Auto III v1.0 (322)
Grand Theft Auto III v1.2 (211)
Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (208)
FIFA 12 v1.2.5 (194)
SPB Shell 3D v1.2.4 (145)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 (139)
Need For Speed Shift v1.0.73 (138)
Plants vs Zombies (110)
Worms (103)
Street Fighter IV HD (102)


Grand Theft Auto III v1.0 (270)
Grand Theft Auto III v1.2 (197)
Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (192)
Navigon v3.6.0 Europe (161)
FIFA 12 v1.2.5 (167)
SPB Shell 3D v1.5.2 (152)
Plants vs Zombies (151)
SPB Shell 3D v1.2.4 (147)
Navigon Europe 2012 v4.0.1 (97)
CoPilot Live Pro 8 (87)

Kickass Torrents

Grand Theft Auto III v1.0 (408)
Sygic GPS v11.0.1 (288)
FIFA 12 v1.2.5 (281)
Grand Theft Auto III v1.2 (270)
Need For Speed Shift v1.0.73 (193)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 (157)
Assassin’s Creed Revelations v1.0.8 (132)
Worms (132)
Where’s My Water v1.3.1 (107)
The Sims 3 (109)

As you can see, Grand Theft Auto 3 is by far and away the most pirated Android app right now – though only number four in Google’s paid app rankings at the time of writing – but there are some other interesting takeaways. Games from high profile publishers such as EA and Gameloft are unsurprisingly in demand, but so is the highly-rated launcher SPB Shell 3D – by far the most expensive launcher on the Market at £9.45.

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Also in demand: satnav apps which cost anywhere on the Market between £20 and £50 depending on the maps included. Lastly, the appearance of Street Fighter IV HD does suggest Android app piracy isn’t mainstream yet – the game requires an Android phone with a 720p resolution screen, of which just four are currently on sale (Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note, LG Optimus LTE, HTC Rezound).

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just the top 10 from a handful of torrent sites. Arguably even more problematic are the huge bundles of (paid for) Android apps being shared in the same way. Because mobile apps usually only require a few megabytes of space, it’s not uncommon to find folders with 400 or more apps, ready to steal in minutes.

We’ll be looking at the problem in more detail over the coming days, but in the meantime, let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below. Do you pirate mobile apps? If so, why?

  • Guest

    You call piracy a problem yet advertise the best places to grab the apps from? Seems a little contradictory…

    • Anonymous

      If we don’t talk about problems, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

  • Garthb

    When the VCR first came out, there were those who said it would kill the film industry. Then the cassette tape was going to kill the music industry .. then the rewritable CD.
    And each time, rather than the entertainment industry being ahead of the technology curve, they forecast doom and gloom and try and kick tech into touch. Now the internet is next!

    As for me, my main gripe is this: I have cash and I want to buy either a TV series or a song, but to be told that it is not available in my region is curious, and laughable. Why? I have cash! I want to buy it, but the people in power deem it not to be available. In addition, I have bought U2′s “The Joshua Tree” on vinyl, then on tape, and then on CD, each time having to re-purchase something I already owned to get it in a different format. Surely, by purchasing it once, I own the right to listen to that music regardless of the format?  Rant over.

    Media companies need to wake up, realise that the buying habit’s of the consumer have changed and to react to it, not block any and all means of acquiring media. 

    • Anonymous

      It’s a tricky one for films, since there’s so much that needs to be secured or marketed, but the fact that top US TV shows still aren’t broadcast on the same day is a major fail – especially for a second series when broadcasters have established it’s popular. The BBC is particularly bad at this, showing Mad Men months behind America – Sky seems to get it a little, but even then it’s usually a week or so behind. Same day broadcasting has to happen.

      • Nick Thomas

        To be fair, many shows on sky1 or Atlantic are only a day or so behind the US.

  • Mark Müller

    To be fair, I found my app Asteroid 2012 on various ‘sharing’ sites shortly after each release/update and have found that it coincides with increases in sales of the paid app shortly after… so if I lose some sold copies but each of those shows their friends, acquaintances etc I think it can also serve as ‘free’ advertising in some cases…

    • Anonymous

      Interesting – would you be able to give me any more details? Get in touch at ben.sillis [ a t ]

    • Anonymous

      Interesting – would you be able to give me any more details? Get in touch at ben.sillis [ a t ]

  • Whaargarbl

    The image you’ve chosen for the top of the article contains unlicensed intellectual property owned by Viz Media and Google. Thief!

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