Glance, an advertising company owned by InMobi Group, has been making headlines in recent days for its proposed lock screen advertising platform for Android smartphones. However, you probably don’t have to worry about it coming to your next Android device.
Singapore-based company Glance was founded in 2019 and is currently developing a lock screen advertising platform of the same name. Glance is already installed on over 400 million smartphones, mainly in India and Southeast Asia, where it displays various recommended content and ads on the lock screen. There are even some built-in games and live streams – Glance said that streams for Battlegrounds Mobile India (a regional version of PUBG: Battlegrounds) had 11.9 million viewers in 2022.
Glance has garnered attention in part for its notable financial backing. Glance raised $145 million in December 2020, some of it from Google, and Jio (the largest mobile network in India) raised $200 million in February.
TechCrunch reported earlier this week that Glance plans 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 carriers in the United States to include Glance on smartphones, which could be available as early as August.
Even if the deal goes through as reported, don’t panic that your future Pixel 7 or Galaxy S23 will have ads for McDonalds or Nike shows as soon as you turn it on. There’s no indication that lock screen ads will appear 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 this product segment already have bundled games and apps that show ads in the notification panel.
Amazon notably tried this strategy a few years ago with “Prime Exclusive” phones, which included devices from Nokia, Motorola, and others that were available at a lower price point than other stores. The catch was that Prime Exclusive phones had ads on the lock screen and several non-removable Amazon apps. Lock screen ads didn’t last long, partly because the advent of fingerprint readers meant fewer people looked 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 turn on lock screen ads for a $5 monthly discount off their phone bill.
Selling cheap ad-supported hardware is a tried and tested business model, with examples such as Amazon Fire tablets and Roku streaming sticks. Ads are less tolerated on pricier devices, however, so intrusive ads are uncommon on premium and mid-range smartphones (at least in the US).
That’s not to say we’re completely ad-free on smartphones. Carriers like AT&T and Verizon are still signing multimillion-dollar deals to preinstall apps like Candy Crush and Facebook on many Android phones (even premium devices). Apple advertises its subscriptions in the Settings app on iPhones and iPads. Samsung used to frequently place ads in system apps like weather and health, but the company scaled back this in 2021.
Bottom line: you don’t have to worry more Android phones with intrusive ads 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 preinstalled apps. Lock screen ads have been tried many times and always stay on budget smartphones and tablets.