Our paper with Ivano Malavolta, Taher Ahmed Ghaleb, Jasper van Rooijen and Mariëlle Stoelinga, Engineering mobile apps for disaster management — The case of COVID-19 apps in the Google Play Store has been accepted for publication in the IEEE Software journal. Pre-print available.
Several mobile apps have been released to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of these apps share a similar socio-technological context: they are developed under a tight schedule, with immense social and political pressure, e.g., concerning privacy and security. Further, due to their mission-critical nature, malfunctions can lead to severe consequences. These factors pose a number of challenges to the software engineering process of the app. This paper compares 61 COVID apps against 61 non-COVID medical apps, all running on the Android platform. Our analysis reveals several noteworthy differences between COVID and non-COVID apps: COVID apps pose more restrictions on the versions of the operating system, thereby limiting the reach of the app; the same number of permissions are asked, however, COVID apps ask for fewer dangerous ones; finally, COVID apps contain more faults and code smells, indicating that the code quality is generally lower.