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Re: How to know what apps are safe?
Google Play is probably the most reliable and safest source available, but they're not perfect--after all, there are over a million apps available. Every now and then you'll hear about a few malicious apps that are discovered and quickly removed, so Google's pretty good about taking quick action once they discover it.
Use common sense, and look through a bunch of reviews. If they're all 5 star reviews, see if they all sound similar, in which case they're probably fake, and there might be more chance that the people behind the app aren't as legit as they seem. If there are 1 star reviews, look at the details--do people complain of too much adware or popups? Or worse yet, unusual phone behavior after installing?
Although there are lots of people out there developing Android malware, Google and other security companies seem to be keeping pace pretty well. Google recently announced that Android will routinely scan apps even after they have been installed on your device, adding another layer of protection: Android update coming with regular malware scans | Android Central