Saturday, 21 June 2014

Live football and match highlights on Android: dodge the scams and see the goals


The Dutch kicked Spain in the cojones, Costa Rica surpised everyone, and the English wish they were never born. The 2014 World Cup couldn't have had a better start.

And there's more to come. Lots more.

But what if you're trapped at work, stuck on the beach, locked in a train, or anywhere else with no tv in sight?

Then you pull out your phone or tablet and watch the games on your Android, of course!

The minefield of the Play Store

The Google Play Store is full of apps to watch live football streams. Missed the game? Plenty of apps to watch the highlights too, so if you didn't see Ghana tame the Germans you have a second chance.

There's a tiny little problem.

Most football streaming apps and highlight viewers bomb your screen with popup ads that won't go away. Tap the tiny little "close" button and they dump even more annoying spam on your display. And when you finally killed the last ad, the video won't play.

So you download another app, only to find out that's it's the same worthless app with a different name, a different icon, and a different developer account from the same scammer.

But what about the Play Store ratings? Forget about them! You can be sure that 99,9% are from the app developers themselves. And most of the one star ratings come from the makers of competing apps.

Many football streaming apps are not worth their electrons, some work to some extent, and a few of them are really good.


This app has live streams and match highlights. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. If big teams are involved, there's usually a stream or two. Or more. Small teams from small leagues often have to do without. Unfortunately you'll only find out when you click the match. Football+ doesn't have an option to filter streamless games out of the list.

Football+ (Google Play Store)

Football live stream (R.I.P.)

This app from used to be my favorite. It worked really well, and had a no-nonsense clean interface. Too bad its servers stopped responding a long time ago. I really want this app to score again.

Football Soccer Highlights and FootyGoal

These two apps have no live matches, but they are are a good source of game highlights after the match.
FootyGoal is listed in the Play Store as Football Highlights World Cup, but it appears as FootyGoal in your app drawer.
FootyGoal and Football Clip Highlights show the same clips from the same source. FootyGoal has a better user interface, but Football Clip Highlights starts its clips directly in full screen mode.

Football Soccer Highlights (Google Play Store)
FootyGoal (Google Play Store)

Football Highlight

I just removed this app from my phones and tablets. Its match list hasn't been updated in months, and the old videos don't even load anymore. The app disappeared from the Play Store too. Bye bye.

• Gone.

Shadow TV

This general internet tv app has lots of channels from all over the world. Plenty of sports channels too, and some of them show live football. You have to try 'em too see what's on, because that's the only way to find out which of the many channels have a game on. Or look 'em up in an online tv guide.

Shadow TV (Google Play Store)

Soccer Live Streaming

Anyone who calls football "soccer" should be hanged, diced, and fed to the crocodiles. With that out of the way, on to the app itself.
Soccer Live Streaming lists lots of live matches ranging from the big leagues to the lower divisions of countries that nobody ever heard of. Just because a match is listed doesn't mean it has a live stream. You won't know until after you try to open it, because the list itself won't tell you. The bigger the teams, the more chance that there's a stream available.

Soccer Live Streaming (Google Play Store)


This bittorrent-like peer-to-peer streaming video app is filled to the brim with high quality live tv streams. There's plenty of live football in SopCast. The app has its own built-in list of channels, but this only shows a tiny fraction of what's available. Too bad SopCast has some spam streams too. Some big league streams are nothing but a static image pointing to a spammy website. To find all the matches live on SopCast you have to search sites like

SopCast (Original version. It's not in the Play Store, so you need to sideload it.)

SopCast Android

Did I just write that SopCast is not in the Google Play Store? It is in there, sort of. Someone called mrGhost2014 took the official version of SopCast apart, added his own ad screen, and shoved it into the Play Store. It's no different from the real SopCast, except for the extra ads.
Stay away from this ripoff. Sideload the real thing and report mrGhost2014 to Google to get this clone pulled out.

SopCast Android (Google Play Store ripoff clone. Sideload the real thing instead!)


This app, listed in the Google Play Store as Live Streams, has a clean user interface and live streams that work, although many of them look very pixelated on a tablet. Streams doesn't just play football, it has other sports too. Too bad it doesn't handle transitions from landscape to portrait mode very well. If you tilt your screen it says "source streams not found." Fortunately you can get them back by returning to the game list and opening the streams again.

Streams (Google Play Store)

Watch Football Live

This app is packed with tv streams, including football. Sometimes the back button won't work, and then the only way to stop a stream is to kill the app.

Watch Football Live

Watch Football Live Stream

This is just a frontend for a website with streams in Flash format. Sometimes the streams work, often they don't. Either way, most streams are full of incredibly annoying popup ads that refuse to go away. If you dare to click the "close" button you're punished with even more ads.

• Kicked from the Play Store. Nobody will miss you.

#1 CL Live

This app appears as "Football Stream World Cup Live" in the Google Play Store, and as #1 CL Live on your home screen. It used to be in the Play Store as #1 Football Live, but that version is gone. I'm sure it will be pulled from the Play Store again in the near future, and then it will come back with yet another name. Even with an ad blocker running this app throws ads all over your screen. It shows streams in Flash and other formats, but you only get to see them after you've chased all the ads away and then some more. To be honest, this is a horrible app. The only reason I didn't throw this (cr)app out yet is that it sometimes plays streams that all my other streaming apps won't play.
Warning: this app has push notifications. Enter the settings screen and switch them off! While you're at it, open your autorun manager and kill all its autostart triggers too. And don't forget to fire up your permissions manager and chain down everything but internet access.

#1 CL Live (Google Play Store)

Play it safe

Be careful with apps like these. They're in it for the money and their business ethics are often questionable. Make sure to use an electronic condom on them. I wouldn't run any of the apps above without an ad blocker like AdAway. Use a good permissions manager like Xprivacy to take away all the Android permissions that they can do without. They need internet access, and some apps need permission to launch your video player, but that's all you have to give them.

Apps like these come and go. They're often pulled from the Play Store, and then they return with a different name. Shady developers copy them to slap their own ads on. Football streaming is a bit like music downloading back in the days of Kazaa. Don't forget to switch your brain on when you play with these apps.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Play Store hides internet permissions: what was Google smoking?

The Google Play Store changed a bit last week. Not just the app, but the mobile website too. Some of these changes are good, some are incredibly stupid. Whoever is responsible for "simplifying" the app permissions should be forced to eat a dozen iPhones.

Play Store mobile website

Opening the Play Store in your mobile web browser used to be horrible. You'd get the desktop layout, an overload of crazy scripts slowed things down to a Nokia N95 on GPRS (that's the old mobile version of a dialup modem), and every tap would spawn a popup with most of the information out of sight beyond the edge of the screen.

But now the Play Store website has a real mobile version. It's still clumsy and slow, but at least you can see most of the information without scrolling your thumbs to pieces.

But why would anyone care about a mobile site if you've got the Play Store app on your Android already? There are two good reasons:

1) Sometimes the Play Store app spits out an inexplicable error with a cryptic number. Installing the app from the mobile website usually fixes things.
2) The website makes it easy to install or update apps on different Android phones and tablets, without having to open the Play Store app on each of your devices.

Some info in plain sight

When the Play Store app started to show whether an app had "in-app purchases," it did so where the app update date used to be. Wanted to find out when the app was updated? You had to expand the description and scroll all the way down to find out. Some app store descriptions are really long. Twenty testimonials followed by thirty competing app names and fifty spammy keywords means a lot of scrolling to get to the info you want.

The new Play Store puts version number, update date, app size, and a link to the app permissions together at the bottom of the screen without need to expand the entire app description. That makes it a lot easier to see if the update is really new, and not an old update that you skipped because it broke the app.

Permissions? Just bend over and spread 'em!

When you hit "install" or "update," the Play Store pops a list of app permissions in your face. If you know what's good for you, you read them. If you've traded your brain for a free McJunk Happy Meal, you click "I agree" on everything and pay the price.

Most people take the Happy Meal, and Google likes it that way.

The new simplified app permissions screen looks like a good idea at first glance. But when you try to expand the permissions you don't get the full list. Instead, you get a heavily dumbed down version that doesn't tell you anything useful.

For example, when you expand "Location" the extra info reads: "uses the device's location." Duh! Does it use network location, GPS, or both? When you expand "Identity" you get the similarly useless "uses one or more of: accounts on the device, profile data." What's that supposed to mean? Can an app with access to "profile data" read my phone number and email address, yes or no?

It gets worse! When you allow an app to auto-update, it used to ask you if you'd accept any new permissions. But not anymore. If the new permissions are in the same "permissions group" as a previously granted permission, Google assumes that you'll accept any new permission from that group. It won't even tell you about those new permissions. If an app was allowed to read your texts, an update can grab permission to send them too without your knowledge. If you allowed an app to get your rather course network location, a new permission that lets the app drain your battery to pinpoint you by GPS is granted automatically without notice. Yes, that's creepy indeed.

And the internet permission is missing!

Google believes you don't need to know about internet permissions

According to Google:

"These days, apps typically access the internet, so network communication permissions including the "full internet access" permission have been moved out of the primary permissions screen."

Whoever is responsible for that deserves a slow and painful death. Really.

When I install an app that can read my contacts list I definitely want to know if it has internet permission, because the combination of access to contacts and internet can bomb you and everyone in your contacts list with unstoppable spam.

When I install an app that encrypts my passwords and credit card number, I definitely don't want that app to have internet access.

There are plenty of other reasons why "network communication permissions" are the most important on the list. Any app that can go online should have that permission displayed in big bold type on top of the permissions list!

Of course Google doesn't want that. "These days, apps typically access the internet" indeed, and often for the sole purpose of downloading ads and sending data to Google Analytics. Collecting data for online advertising and throwing banner ads on your phone or tablet is the reason why Google made Android, so obviously they'd rather not have you wondering why an icon pack or a battery widget wants to go online. Just buy the Happy Meal. No need to ask questions, Big Google knows what's good for you.

You can still see whether an app grabs internet permissions or not, but now you have to scroll to the bottom of the Play Store listing, tap "view details" under the permissions header, and look for your reading glasses. The "full network access" permission is hidden in tiny small light grey print under the heading "Other," as if the most important permission of them all is not important at all.

Grab back the keys

The Android permissions system is a broken mess. If you don't want to say "OK Google" to anything but voice search, you have to wrestle the keys back into your own hands. Here's how:

XPrivacy, Android's most comprehensive permissions manager

AFWall+, the best firewall for Android

AdAway and other Android ad blockers

Why Google should make its own ad blocker
Addons Detector exposes spyware and adware

Stop Google, Facebook, and other Big Brothers from tracking everything you do on your Android

Dump the Happy Meal. Root your phones and tablets and pick your Android permissions à la carte.

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