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Glance, an ad company owned by InMobi Group, has made headlines over the past few days for its planned lock screen ads platform for Android smartphones. You probably don’t have to worry about it coming to your next Android device, though.
Singapore-based Glance was founded in 2019, and currently develops a lock screen advertisement platform with the same name. Glance is already installed on over 400 million smartphones, primarily in India and southeast Asia, where it shows various recommended content and advertisements on the lock screen. There are even some integrated games and livestreams — Glance said streams for Battlegrounds Mobile India (a regional version of PUBG: Battlegrounds) had 11.9 million viewers in 2022.
Glance has gained attention partially from its big-name financial backing. Glance raised $145 million in December 2020, some of which was from Google, and Jio (the largest mobile network in India) invested $200 million in February.
TechCrunch reported earlier this week that Glance is planning to bring its lock screen ads to the United States within the next two months, citing a source familiar with the matter. Glance is reportedly working with network carriers in the United States to include Glance on smartphones, which could arrive as soon as August.
Even if the deal goes through as reported, you don’t need to panic that your future Pixel 7 or Galaxy S23 will have advertisements for McDonalds or Nike shows as soon as you turn it on. There’s no indication that lock screen ads will show up on premium (or even mid-range) devices — the most likely scenario is that they will appear on low-end phones to subsidize hardware costs. Many devices in that product segment already have bundled games and apps that show ads in the notifications panel.
Amazon notably tried this strategy several years ago with ‘Prime Exclusive’ phones, which included devices from Nokia, Motorola, and others available at a lower price than other stores. The catch was that Prime Exclusive phones had advertisements on the lock screen and several non-removable Amazon apps. The lock screen ads didn’t stick around for long, partially because the advent of fingerprint readers resulted in fewer people looking at lock screens for more than a second or two. Amazon removed ads from Prime Exclusive phones with a software update in 2018. Boost Mobile also tried a similar program in 2016, where customers could enable lock screen ads for a $5 discount each month on their phone bill.
Selling cheaper hardware subsidized by advertisements is a proven business model, with examples like Amazon Fire tablets and Roku streaming sticks. However, people are less likely to tolerate ads with more expensive devices, which is why intrusive advertising is uncommon on premium and mid-range smartphones (at least in the United States).
That’s not to say we’re entirely free from ads on smartphones. Carriers like AT&T and Verizon still sign multi-million dollar deals to pre-install apps like Candy Crush and Facebook on many Android phones (even premium devices), and Apple advertises its subscriptions in the Settings app on iPhones and iPads. Samsung used to frequently show ads in system applications, like Weather and Health, but the company cut back on that in 2021.
In conclusion, you don’t have to worry about more Android phones coming with intrusive advertisements on the lock screen — the phones with Glance ads will almost certainly be the phones that are already loaded to the brim with ads and pre-installed apps. Lock screen ads have been tried many times before, and every time, they stay on budget smartphones and tablets.