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Lock Screen Ads Are Coming to Android Phones in The US

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Research shows that people unlock their phones more than 100 times per day. More often than not, they see the lock screen while doing it. That’s a major advertising opportunity, according to Glance. This company has been active overseas for several years, stuffing sponsored content on phones from numerous manufacturers. Now, Glance is reportedly heading for the US with carrier partnerships, and the first Glance-integrated phones could launch in the next few months. 

Glance is a subsidiary of mobile marketing firm InMobi, which is based in India. The Glance lock screen shows up on more than 400 million Android phones across Asia, where it can replace the standard system lock screen. It appears at first like any other lock screen with large HD images, and you can still access notifications or quick settings in the system UI. However, Glance tries to grab your attention with messages aiming to get you to engage with a news feed and other info. The entire experience is interspersed with sponsored content that earns money for Glance. 

As reported by TechCrunch, the partnership with carriers is a change for Glance, which works directly with device makers in Asia. That just speaks to the differences in how phones are sold in the two regions. In the US, most people buy phones directly from their carriers, often on a payment plan, and carriers have a huge amount of control over the software. In Asia, it’s more common to purchase an unlocked phone outright from a retailer. Consumers there have many more budget phone options, and OEMs turn a profit by selling in high volumes. Services like Glance can make these cheap phones more profitable, and the US carriers are certainly not going to turn up their noses at more money. 

It’s unclear which phones US carriers will equip with Glance or what the interactions will look like. It’s almost guaranteed to be a mess, even if they focus on inexpensive phones. In the past, there were apps in the Play Store that attempted to advertise on the lock screen, but Google banned them in 2018. People with Glance-infused phones in Asia also regularly complain about the service wasting mobile data and causing their devices to lag. 

This is not the first time Android phones in the US have sported lock screen ads. Amazon briefly experimented with the Kindle model for smartphones. Starting in 2016, it offered discounted versions of budget phones with some added Amazon apps and ads on the lock screen. It was a bad experience, and Amazon decided to end the practice in 2018 — the same year Google banned lock screen ads in the Play Store… weird! It will be interesting to see if carriers can make Glance work in the US. I certainly hope not, though. 

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