More than 5% of free Android apps use aggressive advertising networks

July 13, 2012
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android notifications Johan Larsson/Flickr

Almost every mobile device owner has used apps that are supported by adverts. It is one of the three main ways that developers (large and small) can generate income to fund their app development (and maybe make a profit). The other two ways are, of course, making the app pay-for and using in-app purchasing of one kind or another. In general, users are happy with ad supported apps and, if a good ad network is used, the ads can even be useful.

But according to Lookout, some 5% of apps use ad networks which are too aggressive. This 5% represents some 80 million downloads, not a small number. The worse type of ads are those which appear in the notification area. They are disruptive and seemingly ever present. Around 17% of personalization apps (like wallpaper apps) use notification ads. But they aren’t the only ones, 7% of games and 8% of entertainment apps use aggressive ad networks.

One problem for personalization apps is that there often isn’t an actual app per se in which adverts can run. A live wallpaper just runs in the background and the user doesn’t interact with it very often. Therefore, these types of apps are “forced” to use notification ads.

“Wallpaper/ringtone/theme type of apps CANNOT use traditional banner ads from networks like Jumptap / Admob/ etc since their is no ‘in-app’ experience. Think about it, how does a wallpaper app use a banner ad? Rather, their only choices [is to use] ad networks which offer alternative ad formats such as push notification ads,” said Asher Delug, the CEO of Airpush.

My personal experience reflects exactly this situation. I installed a live wallpaper on my Android device (along with some other apps – I was on an installation spree) and the next thing I noticed was that a notification kept appearing telling me to buy some other app. I didn’t know which of the apps I recently installed was adding the notifications. I installed the Ad Network Detector app by Lookout, and it quickly found the “offending app”. Because I found the notification ads to be too intrusive, I had to uninstall the live wallpaper.

What are your thoughts on ad supported apps? Like them, loathe them, don’t care? It is interesting to note that the very popular Angry Birds series is mainly funded by ads on Android, while on iOS the full games are pay-for apps. Does that reflect a difference in the habits of Android and iOS users? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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