What is a Third Party App?

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You use these apps all the time on your smartphone and tablet

A third-party app is an app created by a developer who is not the manufacturer of the device on which the app is running, or the website that offers it. You might think of them as first-party apps, but the term isn’t very widely used.

Third-party apps may be welcome by the device or website owner. For example, the Safari web browser app available on the iPhone is a first-party, built-in app made by Apple, but the App Store includes other web browser apps that Apple has approved but not developed for use on the iPhone. These apps are third-party apps. Facebook allows some apps it didn’t develop to work on the social media site. These are third-party apps.

Types of Third-Party Applications
There are a few different situations where you might come across the term “third-party app”.

Apps are created for official app stores, from Google or Apple, and are third-party apps that follow the development criteria required by those app stores. A developer-approved app for a service like Facebook or Snapchat is considered a third-party app. If Facebook or Snapchat develops the app, it’s a first-party app.
Applications made available through unofficial third-party app stores or websites created by parties not affiliated with the device or operating system are also third-party applications. Be careful when downloading apps from any source, especially unofficial app stores or websites, to avoid malware.
An application that connects to another service (or its application) to provide advanced features or access profile information is a third-party application. An example of this is Quizzstar, a third-party quiz app that requires permission to access certain parts of a Facebook profile. No such third-party app is downloaded. Instead, the app is granted access to potentially sensitive information through its connection to the other service or app.
Difference of First-Party Applications from Third-Party Applications
First-party apps are apps created and distributed by the device manufacturer or software creator. Examples of some first-party apps for iPhone are Music, Messages, and Books.

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What makes these apps “first-party” is that they are built by a manufacturer for that manufacturer’s devices, often using proprietary source code. For example, when Apple creates an app for an Apple device such as an iPhone, that app is a first-party app. For Android devices, examples of first-party apps include the mobile version of Google apps like Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Chrome, as the creator of the Android mobile operating system is Google.

Just because an app is a first-party app for one type of device doesn’t mean it can’t have a version available for other types of devices. For example, there is a version of Google apps that works on iPhone and iPad available through the Apple App Store. These are considered third-party apps on iOS devices.

Why Do Some Services Ban Third-Party Apps?
Some services or apps prohibit the use of third-party apps for security reasons. Every time a third-party application accesses a profile or other information from an account, it poses a security risk. Information about the account or profile can be used to hack or duplicate the account. In the case of minors, it may disclose photos and details of teenagers and children to potentially harmful persons.

In the Facebook test example, the test app can access the profile details it’s been granted access to, until the app permissions are changed in the Facebook account settings. If the permissions are not changed, the app will still have access to the Facebook profile even after the user has stopped using the app. Facebook continues to collect and store details from the profile and these details can pose a security risk.

Using third-party apps is not illegal. However, if a service or app’s terms of use state that third-party apps are not allowed, attempting to use someone to connect to that service may result in an account being locked or disabled.

Who Uses Third-Party Apps, Anyway?
Third-party apps have a variety of productive, entertaining, and informative uses. There are third-party apps that manage several social media accounts at once, such as Hootsuite and Buffer. Other third-party apps manage bank accounts, count calories, or activate a home security camera from a mobile device.

Open the application menu screen on your smartphone and navigate through the downloaded applications. Do you have any gaming, social media or shopping apps? Chances are good, these are third-party apps.

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