Apple is reportedly working on a way to display ads on its apps on iPhones. The news comes via a report by Mark Gurman on Bloomberg (paywalled article).
Apple isn't the first company to try this, many Android OEMs display ads on their phones, notably Xiaomi with its MIUI. Xiaomi is an internet company first, and an OEM next. The low prices of its phones attracts many buyers, creating a large userbase to which it can serve ads. Samsung threw its hat in the ring by displaying ads in its Weather app, even on its premium flagship devices. But the idea backfired badly after users lashed out at the company, which in turn forced the electronics giant to reverse its decision.
Image courtesy: Bloomberg.
But with Android, you can usually get rid of the bloatware and ads by flashing a custom ROM. That requires a bit of technical experience, and a computer. With iOS, you don't have such flexible options.
Current state of Ads in iOS and macOS
Apple currently displays ads in certain areas of iOS and macOS. There are three kinds of ads in its ecosystem. The ads that you may see in the Apple News and Stocks apps, are similar to those you come across on websites, i.e. third party ads.
The App Store has its own ads system in place, that allows developers to promote their apps. Apple recently updated the App Store with controversial changes that promote subscription based apps, a new policy allows developers to extend subscriptions, and even hike the price without notifying users. The Today tab will soon start displaying ads, and so will app listings.
The Cupertino company has also been promoting sports content in the Apple TV+ app, specifically Friday Night Baseball. This one's a bit understandable, since it is a service offered within the app. There is one more way Apple advertises its own products, the Settings app in iOS may promote Apple Music, iCloud, etc. You can usually dismiss these suggestions, but they do come back.
First party ads are okay in my opinion, since the data will not be sold to other companies. Third party ads, however, are a big no-no. Not only do they pose a risk for privacy, such ads will make the devices seem cheap.
Apple has been pretty impressive in protecting the privacy of users. Most of its telemetry options are opt-in, i.e., the settings are not enabled by default, which is the right way to handle user data. It also has an App Tracking Transparency system, sort of like permission controls, to prevent apps from tracking you across websites and other apps. You may disable personalized ads from the Settings Privacy Security section. This won't provide complete protection from trackers, but it offers an additional layer to secure your privacy.
Of course, one might argue that using an ad-blocker or DNS could solve the problem. But, these aren't ideal solutions, these are workarounds, and not something that you'd expect with an out-of-the-box experience. Besides, not everyone is tech-savvy enough to do these things.
Gurman is a reliable source for Apple related news, so ads coming to iOS could well be true. Ads and privacy don't mix well, it remains to be seen how users will react to the change. The company views ads as a great discovery tool for app developers.
According to Gurman, the company may expand ads to Apple Maps, Apple Podcasts and Apple Books. As for the ads in the Maps app, it is expected to serve ads for featured places (who pay to be ranked on top) like in Yelp. Similarly, publishers and authors could buy ad space to promote their books and podcasts. He also speculates that Apple TV+ could have an ad supported tier, not unlike Disney+ with ads, to offer older shows, and help promote the paid tiers.
What do you think about seeing ads on a $1000 iPhone or Mac? Is that something you find acceptable?
Apple could start displaying ads on your iPhone
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