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

by: Gary SimsJuly 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.

  • anon

    Do not know where these guys get their numbers but they are far worse than these single digit numbers. Almost every launcher theme I have looked at is infected with this crap. And I do not even touch wallpaper changers even if it is the only way to get a scrolling wallpaper anymore on my phone due to the proliferation of malware behavior.

    None of these apps are FORCED either they choose to attempt to make profit on something that really isn’t profitable short of a single charge. They CHOSE because they make more profit at the expense of the user. Instead of a payoff once they get a pay off over time. Google should never have let anything this intrusive into it’s os. And should not allow it. If they want to make a proper living off it they (the dev) should find a real job. IE quit making apps. I produce wallpaper changers and themes for a hobby.

    Just cause you can advert on something does not make it a right.

    These scum who push these mallware schemes are just that SCUM. End users should not have to OPT out, it should be a OPT in. Asher Delug should go back to his job of shaving dogs asses and peddling for coins in a gutter.

    In the end all these schemes are malware. They make your device do things outside of the app and indipendant of the app. I do dislike banner ads but at least I only have to look at them when I am using the free app. Not whenever they deem I have to. Users should also understand many of the free apps that have no visible ads are not free of spyware. Many apps like winamp contain hooks to gather data and send it often across unencrypted and in the open. This could be simple things like location and phone ID but as nasty as your contacts usage and other things.

    I am just waiting before these scum decide to start using our data lines as dedicated networks so they do not have to pay for bandwidth.

    Something for nothing seems to be the motto these days. The fix for now I do not pay for or use apps that contain these hooks. I do not support dev who use these or make any attempt to justify it.

    Our phones are not their crapping grounds.