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i'm new to all the freelance work and since last week i have receive two offer.

The first one was rebranding of an Android App. The client had a version of his application and he want me to add his new logo and colors to his existant app. But he can only send me one APK file. Not the source code. Second mission was a team that want me to add a new functionnality to their existant app. But again they only have one apk file to give me.

Is it normal to work with only an apk and to not have so much contact with the client before starting the work (even if it's not complex like adding a logo to a splashscreen ?) I find this solution really weird especially with the first client since they could just want to make a copy of an app.

It's my first two missions has a freelance so i don't want to lose my first opportunity especially when the task they ask me is pretty simple. But on the other hand i don't want to start my work with illegal jobs...

If anyone can tell me if this is normal in the field or if i should firmly decline those missions ?

Have a good day :)

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    Do you have any evidence at all that the people who want you to do these things actually own the apps in question?
    – Ben Barden
    May 21, 2020 at 21:28
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    Also, you should simplify the question down a bit. This is a reasonable place to ask the "is this normal" question. It is not a particularly good place to ask the "how do I do this" question (that would be Stack Overflow, I suspect). First get the answer to this question, then (if you wish to continue) go ask that one.
    – Ben Barden
    May 21, 2020 at 21:31
  • Thanks for your response. No i have no evidence at all. This i why it seems suspicious. And yes i will simplify the question since i just want to know if this is normal practive to work with APK and not the source code. I know how to work with an APK.
    – Tom
    May 21, 2020 at 21:45
  • Also if they don't have the source, they probably don't own the signing key either. Which means you won't be able to update existing published app - be careful not to get blamed for that. I'd say this kind of job smells to high heaven and you shouldn't take it.
    – Mavrik
    May 22, 2020 at 20:36

3 Answers 3

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Do i have to do decompile the APK implement what the mission told me, recompile and then deliver the modified app ?

Yes, although there are tools for doing that like https://ibotpeaches.github.io/Apktool/. It isn't perfect, but should do for a reskinning.

I find this solution really weird especially with the first client since they could just want to make a copy of an app.

Companies that use freelancers are typically terrible at keeping their source code simply because they tend to be non-technical. I interviewed for a job where they hired a contractor to develop their app and they were hiring a full time person as the contractor was a dud.

They didn't even know what language/framework the app was built in. I would find what tech I was using when I arrived and figured it out for them.

Another friend works for a company where they hired a contractor to develop their website and the contractor disappeared. That company hired a bunch of developers and assumed they would know how to get into the server. In the end they were lifting HTML and JS off the page to transfer it over.

Friends who freelance have had people try to give them .exe files to edit.

Technical and organizational incompetence could easily explain why they don't have source code and such technical and organizational incompetence is common. But...

But on the other hand i don't want to start my work with illegal jobs...

You should do your best to verify that they actually own it. Try searching for the apks/app names on Google to see if the publisher matches the people who are hiring you or see if they publicly claim the apps already on their websites.

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  • Yes this is what i was thinking... That it's not the developper who give me the missions but the HR department where they don't even know what source code is. But like those mission are 1 or 2 days missions and i will put the same effort/time searching if it's their app that i will put doing the real job... If it was a one week or one month mission i would understand and i would dig a little more. Thanks for your response anyway, that really show me that my case will be redundant unfortunatly ahah
    – Tom
    May 22, 2020 at 10:30
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I would find it weird that all you get to work on is APK file, especially branding work

First thing to do, IMHO, is to ask why and check the metadata of APK to validate ownership

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    No, it's not weird. You can reskin an apk without the source assuming you're willing to use the same signature. It's very easy. It's really pointless to give your code to someone who could potentially steal the source from you. It only becomes a problem if the owner wants to publish under a different package name or with a different signature. May 22, 2020 at 1:26
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Take a look at the package name, contact the developer directly through the Google Play store to make sure it's the same person (you could also just check if it's the same email address or the same phone number).

Also, before you do anything, ask the client if he wants you to change the package name and the signature. If he doesn't want you to change the signature, that's the easiest scenario. There is no programming required whatsoever.

If he wants you to change the signature (or the package name), then that's going to be much-much more difficult.

I find this solution really weird especially with the first client since they could just want to make a copy of an app.

If the client doesn't want you to change the package name or the signature, then not sharing the code with you was the right move. You don't need it. And it would be a lapse in security to share code with a contractor who doesn't even need it in the first place.

That being said, the owner not wanting to change the signature doesn't mean that he didn't steal the apk. With an unmodified signature, he won't be able to publish the apk to Google Play, but he'll still be able to publish the apk to non-Google Android stores in other markets.

An apk is just zip folder. Rename the extension to zip. Unzip it. See what I mean? The assets are right there. Change the assets.

But don't change their path. Don't change their name. Don't change their dimensions. Don't change their type. Don't break the 9 patch format (if any that you need to modify).

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  • Yeah that's what i was going to do but i was finding it weird do to things like that i would have assume it would be easy ahah ! I know that an apk file is simply a zip folder. If they want to steal or copy an app they wouldn't have send me an apk to change the logo they would ask me to change package name etc... If they know how to change that they probably know how to change the splashcreen logo ! Same as all the response i got, i will contact the app developper to check if it's their app. Thanks for your time and your response !
    – Tom
    May 22, 2020 at 10:38

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