Apple is pushing its services, but iOS is not adware yet

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2020
Apple has not turned iOS into adware, yet we do get get more notifications of services than we did. That's still a long way from having Mail's inbox showing us banner ads for golf games and dating sites, though.

No question, this is an ad from Apple that appears on its devices. Whether you see that as intrusive or useful, though, is another matter.
No question, this is an ad from Apple that appears on its devices. Whether you see that as intrusive or useful, though, is another matter.


There is an idea floating around -- for which read "is on Twitter" -- that says Apple's iOS is nothing more than adware. That Apple is using our dependence on our iPhones to serve up ads for its various services.

If your first reaction is that this is nonsense, and your second is that this is Apple, it's not Microsoft, still your third might be different. Once the idea is in your head, you do start thinking about how we are seeing more notifications about services. They are notifications, we dismiss them as we do anything else, but they are telling us about services so, yes, they are adverts.

The key part though, is in the argument that iOS is nothing more than adware. The argument turns on the words "nothing more," and it turns both ways.

On the pro-Apple side, "nothing more" is practically an insult because iOS is so very much more than an advert platform. However, on the anti-Apple side, disputing the phrase "nothing more" means accepting that iOS is at least a little like adware.

But we are in a world where waiting 6 seconds before we can skip a YouTube ad feels a long time. And speaking of which, you try persuading YouTube that you will never want its Music service, or that you're fine without music continuing after you'e left a tab.

Apple is doing what you would, too, and it's probably doing what it must. That doesn't mean we have to like it, but the notion that everything is over, iOS is just adware now, is pointless hyperbole.

Or, admittedly, it is for now.

Crossing a line

If I've ever had an advert in the Apple Music iOS app, I haven't noticed it. I did get bothered by Apple TV telling me that new episodes of shows were available on the BBC iPlayer, but they were all shows I'd previously searched for. And while how to switch them off is less obvious than you'd expect, I have turned off the lot.

The only ad-related issue that has given me pause, and made me change how I use my iPhone, is Apple News.

Left: a promo for Apple News+. Middle: a story you can read but also promotes subscribing. Right: a story you can't read without subscribing - and you don't know that until you get this far
Left: a promo for Apple News+. Middle: a story you can read but also promotes subscribing. Right: a story you can't read without subscribing - and you don't know that until you get this far


I'm in the UK where we had to wait many months for Apple News+ to arrive, but in the meantime I got quite addicted to the regular Apple News. Enough so that when the subscription service launched here, I signed up for the free trial and I kept going afterwards for several months.

Only, even when you pay for Apple News+, it was a little tedious how often you'd tap on a story that turned out to need a further subscription to the magazine it comes from. That plus the fact that I had so enjoyed the regular Apple News meant that I cancelled the subscription.

Yet the service has never been the same since. I don't mean that I now lack Apple News+ articles because of course I do, but the regular Apple News is not working the way it did before I subscribed.

Now a great number of articles it recommends to me turn out to require an Apple News+ subscription.

It may not be Apple trying to advertise me into submission, though. Apple News shows you articles based on what you've read before, so since I did read a lot of magazines when I had an Apple News+ subscription, that will have affected the algorithm.

Except, family members who only got Apple News+ because I had a family sharing subscription, are finding the same things. It's cut down all of our use of Apple News as a result.

Your mileage varies

Being in the UK, we don't yet have Apple Card. Being an Apple Music subscriber, I don't get told about great deals to do with free trial periods on Apple Music. So I haven't had any ads at all in my Wallet, and I don't recall ever seeing any in Apple Music. US colleagues report the same experience as me, so this isn't just my geography influencing Apple.

It's hard to know how else Apple can tell us about a new service than by presenting information about it.
It's hard to know how else Apple can tell us about a new service than by presenting information about it.


True, the Apple TV app is more prone to showing me things I don't want, but oddly, that does not mean it's showing me Apple TV shows.

If I actively want to watch an Apple TV show, then unless the very last thing I watched was from that service, it simply isn't pushed at me. I've got to scroll down at least past the Watch Next section and sometimes the What to Watch one as well.

To find a particular Apple TV show, you really have to know that it is exists first and then search for it. To get an ostensibly complete catalog of what's available takes a scroll and two taps.

So perhaps it's a case that if Apple is adware, it's not very good at it.

The end of iOS as we know it

None of us believe that we are susceptible to advertising, and every advertiser knows that we are. We can be susceptible for different reasons, though, and they can be good, bad and indifferent ways.

Telling me that a new episode of "Picard" is on Amazon Prime is not Apple pushing an advert, it is Apple notifying me of something I've expressed an interest in. I don't see that as Apple being either good or bad, it's just part of how my iPhone 11 Pro keeps me informed.

When Apple pushed a notification that says "Apple TV is here," that was an advert. I'm indifferent about it because it's a rare occurrence.

It's when it becomes more than a rarity, and much more about advertising instead of informing, then it does become bad. So when Apple, as it seems to me, effectively hobbles its free service by forever showing ads for Apple News+ instead of the story I want to read, that's bad.

Left: an ad for Apple Wallet. Right: a pushed notification for TV -- but that's not an Apple show, and it also pushed how to stop such notifications
Left: an ad for Apple Wallet. Right: a pushed notification for TV -- but that's not an Apple show, and it also pushed how to stop such notifications


Yet it's bad advertising that has a decent chance of working. I'm currently annoyed enough about it that I don't want to resubscribe, but if Apple produces a bundled subscription that includes Apple News+, I'm likely to take it.

I've gone from an Apple News+ fan to a disgruntled user, and yet it wouldn't take much to tempt me back in -- because I've been continually made aware of the service.

Enough already

Apple's future is in services and if it's to succeed, especially if it is to grow by the amount it's hoping to, customers have to be aware of its services and of how good they are. Notifications we can't prevent are annoying. Ads for a new Apple service that only appear when we go into, say, the Arcade section of the App Store, are fine.

As long-time Apple users, we might pay attention to the company's announcements and events, but most users do not. We can be reached by Apple unveiling some great new service, but most of its existing audience can't.

The way to reach these people and make them aware of services is to notify them on their devices. And whether you think Apple does that too much already, whether you're concerned about it or not, it's going to happen more.

Let me reset the Apple News algorithm, and give me more free iCloud space, and I'll put up with the odd notification.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    I can understand the complaint... but I just dump the preinstalled App’s in a folder and forget about them.  I don’t get solicitations through email or text.  I don’t use iTunes and infrequently try ‘free’ apps, which (I think) is where this adware perception is coming from.  I also don’t allow any App prompt me, except Apple News and Apple Calendar.  Apple News is pretty intrusive...

    My biggest complaint is Safari is trash.  You need to purchase an ad blocker, but you can’t do anything about video (ads) that auto play.  Stopping auto play is a basic browser feature... I suspect Apple gets paid off by Google.  These ads make for poor browsing experience, fighting you for control of scrolling as they auto center on the ads, and pausing them frequently only works after the ad downloads.  Frequently attempts to stop them results in browser redirects.

    That said, I wouldn’t call iOS adware.  But, every release it gets closer.  


  • Reply 2 of 21
    The bar for "advertising" is very low, any communication that aims to influence the users behaviour is a form of advertising. However not all advertising is bad, it's just that we are accustomed to seeing a lot of bad advertising, thus there is a negative association with it.

    Good advertising is a service. It can be informative, or in harmony with your existing objectives. Search engines make a lot of money with the latter, by providing relevant advertising results based on search criteria. However hiding the fact that these are ads (as Google is currently attempting) moves this into bad advertising, as you may be getting diverted into a sub-optimal offer.

    iOS's advertising is another form of well behaved and useful advertising. Certain apps can be enhanced with services. These are all highly logical extensions, each giving the user access to more of what they're already looking for (more games, music, literature, media, data storage etc.) In that regard it's a service to the user. This would only change if iOS chose to pester the user, or not provide a means to control the appearance of these messages, which brings me to bad advertising:

    Examples of bad advertising:

    On Xbox you will absolutely see tiles for entirely irrelevant adverts, a common example is McDonald's hamburgers, this is not because you're on a free tier/ad-supported service: these irrelevant ads are shown to paying members, there is no way to remove them.

    Or inside Windows, once complimentary games are now merely trial versions. There is something particularly nasty about paying for a Windows upgrade, just for it to switch out a number of familiar titles with trial versions.

    As already mentioned you'll see similar adverts in their online services.


    sully54StrangeDayspscooter63lolliver
  • Reply 3 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    Good advertising is a service. It can be informative, or in harmony with your existing objectives. Search engines make a lot of money with the latter, by providing relevant advertising results based on search criteria. However hiding the fact that these are ads (as Google is currently attempting) moves this into bad advertising, as you may be getting diverted into a sub-optimal offer.

    You and the author would generally agree then.
    "It's when it becomes more than a rarity, and much more about advertising instead of informing, then it does become bad. So when Apple, as it seems to me, effectively hobbles its free service by forever showing ads for Apple News+ instead of the story I want to read, that's bad."

    FWIW I don't like that Google Search has the idea of making ad/promoted results LESS obvious than before tho they deny that will be the case. For myself I'm certain to recognize the ads from the results immediately but for those who might not use search as much I can imagine how they might arrive at a sponsored page without intent to do so. 

    Not that the article is about Google anyway but for now there's a clear distinction between Google sponsored pages and general search. Sponsored results are clearly marked as such and appear far different. Very little chance of there being any confusion which is which IMO. Are you seeing something different?
    edited February 2020
  • Reply 4 of 21
    This
    None of us believe that we are susceptible to advertizing, and every advertiser knows that we are.

    I'm one of those who simply hate all advertising. Any AD that gets shown to me too frequently is put on my 'Do not Buy from this company list'.
    That list gets longer almost every week.
    I spent a few years working for a Google Partner. I saw how SEO worked from the inside and along with their other tricks basically turned me from someone who was pretty ambivalent towards advertising into one who eschews it.

    I can't recall ever seeing an ad on my iPhone. There again, I don't use it in the same way as many people. I don't use Mail, Apple News and iTunes on it (the latter is used but with the device in Airplane mode as I don't stream anything).

    By not doing everything on the phone, my 'attack vector' for Adverts is minimal.



  • Reply 5 of 21
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,699member
    So when Apple, as it seems to me, effectively hobbles its free service by forever showing ads for Apple News+ instead of the story I want to read, that's bad.

    Completely agree. Apple News was okay until they littered it with ads for Apple News+
    lolliver
  • Reply 6 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    Rayz2016 said:
    So when Apple, as it seems to me, effectively hobbles its free service by forever showing ads for Apple News+ instead of the story I want to read, that's bad.

    Completely agree. Apple News was okay until they littered it with ads for Apple News+
    Apple Arcade is another I see frequently mentioned regarding "ads" for the service.
    seymour
  • Reply 7 of 21
    I don't think "Adware" is the correct term. Adware is something that is mostly or fully ad funded. The iPhone shows the same ad over and over again and the up-front cost of the iPhone certainly funds the entire cost of the phone, so it doesn't fit the definition of ad funded. Perhaps "Sponsorware" is more appropriate.
    Beats
  • Reply 8 of 21
    I can understand the complaint... but I just dump the preinstalled App’s in a folder and forget about them.  I don’t get solicitations through email or text.  I don’t use iTunes and infrequently try ‘free’ apps, which (I think) is where this adware perception is coming from.  I also don’t allow any App prompt me, except Apple News and Apple Calendar.  Apple News is pretty intrusive...

    My biggest complaint is Safari is trash.  You need to purchase an ad blocker, but you can’t do anything about video (ads) that auto play.  Stopping auto play is a basic browser feature... I suspect Apple gets paid off by Google.  These ads make for poor browsing experience, fighting you for control of scrolling as they auto center on the ads, and pausing them frequently only works after the ad downloads.  Frequently attempts to stop them results in browser redirects.

    That said, I wouldn’t call iOS adware.  But, every release it gets closer.  
    Your suspicions are low value. Apple does not get secret payments from Google to auto-play video advertisements. Think about what you’re typing. 

    If you don’t like websites with video players set to auto-play, tell them. The websites who do it. 

    Safari is great, and I love the unified content blockers system. I run 1Blocker on iOS, ipadOS, and macOS, it’s quite effective and shares my whitelist and custom rules across devices. 
    edited February 2020 pscooter63lolliver
  • Reply 9 of 21

    gatorguy said:
    Good advertising is a service. It can be informative, or in harmony with your existing objectives. Search engines make a lot of money with the latter, by providing relevant advertising results based on search criteria. However hiding the fact that these are ads (as Google is currently attempting) moves this into bad advertising, as you may be getting diverted into a sub-optimal offer.

    Not that the article is about Google anyway but for now there's a clear distinction between Google sponsored pages and general search. Sponsored results are clearly marked as such and appear far different. Very little chance of there being any confusion which is which IMO. Are you seeing something different?
    Yes. As has been widely discussed on twitter, google is intentionally making ads look like results and results look like ads. This will likely be effective to non-IT normals. 


    Compare to yesteryear and the march toward blurring the line via formatting decisions is clear. 



    Gruber and others here:

    https://daringfireball.net/linked/2020/01/23/google-search-redesign
    pscooter63lolliverBeats
  • Reply 10 of 21

    Rayz2016 said:
    So when Apple, as it seems to me, effectively hobbles its free service by forever showing ads for Apple News+ instead of the story I want to read, that's bad.
    Completely agree. Apple News was okay until they littered it with ads for Apple News+
    I use News casually and don’t even recall the ads. Just now I opened it, clicked three front page stories, and read them. One was the Washington Post and it had a subscription ad at the top of the full article. The other articles had nothing. No banners, no popups.

    Inversely, YouTube app on iOS pesters me with a modal dialog to try some promo or click No Thanks. Every. Single. Week. 

    I think the issue is intrusiveness vs non. 
    edited February 2020
  • Reply 11 of 21

    gatorguy said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    So when Apple, as it seems to me, effectively hobbles its free service by forever showing ads for Apple News+ instead of the story I want to read, that's bad.

    Completely agree. Apple News was okay until they littered it with ads for Apple News+
    Apple Arcade is another I see frequently mentioned regarding "ads" for the service.
    That’s because it’s a pay service. If you go into a paid service app, and haven’t paid for the service, it’s going to tell you. 
    lolliverBeats
  • Reply 12 of 21
    FolioFolio Posts: 698member
    Glad ApInsider taking on this topic. Frankly, this scares me (as someone deeply invested in ecosystem and as stockholder) more than any big tech rival or government regulation or tech trend. We are captives, trusting Apple to make right choices and give users options as we look at screens from stamp size to movie size. Each screen size different expectations. Sometimes already hijack bulk of screen. E.g. Apple trying to sell you new audiobooks when all you want, within a few seconds walking out door w iphone, is to pick one to listen to from your personal library. (Luckily once you chose book, siri can bring it up directly.) Apple at least already gives options to kill promo emails or AM ads.
  • Reply 13 of 21
    thttht Posts: 3,931member
    I only use Apple News (and pay for Music), and there definitely has been an uptick in advertising for News+, but it’s primarily “paywall” style advertising for reading articles. There are some display ads, but that has been there for a long while. The News+ advertising is ok. Sometimes I get annoyed, sometimes I appreciate it. I almost subscribed because there looked to be a new serious looking science magazine that was recently added, but nope. I’m holding out for the paywalled science paper journals to enter the catalog to be worth $10/mo for me. So, if the advertising lets me know that it’s there while I’m using the free News service, great.

    Of the things I hate in the journalism world, or reading centric media world, the paywalls and service advertising is quite low on the list. So, this is fairly benign. There are other things that suck a lot more. The editors do it to themselves and have damaged the reputation of journalism beyond repair. They can’t help themselves with shock-schlock tabloid mannerisms. Appleinsider has a lot more integrity than most other sites, thankfully. 

    For example, look at the 9to5mac.com article on this. They outright lied in their headline: “iOS software engineer says Apple service promos mean ‘iOS is adware“. Steve Streva, the dude who started this, is not an iOS software engineer. The advertising I am perfectly ok with. It is a way that these sites make money, and they ply their content in trade for eyeballs on their ads. That’s the deal and I am perfectly accepting of it. If it gets overbearing, like it has gotten on Anandtech, I have the choice to stop reading the site.

    Number 1 on the hate list is obviously not actually doing the work and making up stories. Mark Gurman has great sources of information, but he’s getting worse and worse with making shit up about what the data means. My brain immediately turns off as soon as he starts talking about Apple’s financial performance based on rumors. I don’t know if Bloomberg is encouraging it or it’s part and parcel of how journalism works, but it is much more irritating than ads or subscription ads. And this is after wading through a veritable gauntlet of ads to read anything on Bloomberg, even worse than the number 2 on the list with all these sites spamming eyeballs with fakes news from fake news networks like Taboola, Outbrain, etc. The reason I stopped reading the Verge.
    pscooter63lolliver
  • Reply 14 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member

    gatorguy said:
    Good advertising is a service. It can be informative, or in harmony with your existing objectives. Search engines make a lot of money with the latter, by providing relevant advertising results based on search criteria. However hiding the fact that these are ads (as Google is currently attempting) moves this into bad advertising, as you may be getting diverted into a sub-optimal offer.

    FWIW I don't like that Google Search has the idea of making ad/promoted results LESS obvious than before tho they deny that will be the case.

    Not that the article is about Google anyway but for now there's a clear distinction between Google sponsored pages and general search. Sponsored results are clearly marked as such and appear far different. Very little chance of there being any confusion which is which IMO. Are you seeing something different?
    Yes. As has been widely discussed on twitter, google is intentionally making ads look like results and results look like ads. This will likely be effective to non-IT normals. 


    Compare to yesteryear and the march toward blurring the line via formatting decisions is clear. 



    Gruber and others here:

    https://daringfireball.net/linked/2020/01/23/google-search-redesign
    That's why I asked if the OP was seeing something different.

    EDIT: Using your same search terms I do now see those results marked as "Ads". I've not noted that before but obviously Google has rolled out the change that I wished they didn't make. 
    edited February 2020 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 21
    the 5GiB free tier on iCloud issue is beyond ludicrous at this point. I say this as a 2TB subscriber. I really, really don't understand why Apple doesn't just bite the bullet and offer every iOS user - every person who has at least one iPhone and/or iPad - 1TB free in iCloud. Yes, FREE. You couldn't ask for a sweeter incentive, nor could you design a more ingenious way of fully locking people in to the ecosystem. But noooooooooo we have the same free 5Gb offered to people as we did ... ok guys. Way to think short term.


    rogifan_new
  • Reply 16 of 21
    I don’t like the direction iOS is going in this regard but it seems like this rant is more about some people don’t like that the Music app is basically Apple Music and the video (TV) app is basically Apple TV+. I expect us to get worse though if new services don’t really take off. Right now the growth and services is still mostly coming from the App Store, iCloud and Apple Care. 
  • Reply 17 of 21
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,300member
    Apple News used to be fantastic, now it is littered with ads and the experience is reminiscent of a bad early 2000's website.

    I tried Apple News+ and was dismayed to find that ads still littered the experience, plus the price wasn't compelling for me as I have no intention of reading magazines, I just want news articles.

    As with the writer of this article I went from a regular user of Apple News to someone who now no longer opens it at all.

    The annoying thing is that Apple does not need all of these adverts cluttering up their user experience, they make more than enough money on the hardware they sell to not have to try and nickel and dime me all the time!
  • Reply 18 of 21
    gatorguy said:

    gatorguy said:
    Good advertising is a service. It can be informative, or in harmony with your existing objectives. Search engines make a lot of money with the latter, by providing relevant advertising results based on search criteria. However hiding the fact that these are ads (as Google is currently attempting) moves this into bad advertising, as you may be getting diverted into a sub-optimal offer.

    FWIW I don't like that Google Search has the idea of making ad/promoted results LESS obvious than before tho they deny that will be the case.

    Not that the article is about Google anyway but for now there's a clear distinction between Google sponsored pages and general search. Sponsored results are clearly marked as such and appear far different. Very little chance of there being any confusion which is which IMO. Are you seeing something different?
    Yes. As has been widely discussed on twitter, google is intentionally making ads look like results and results look like ads. This will likely be effective to non-IT normals. 


    Compare to yesteryear and the march toward blurring the line via formatting decisions is clear. 



    Gruber and others here:

    https://daringfireball.net/linked/2020/01/23/google-search-redesign
    That's why I asked if the OP was seeing something different.

    EDIT: Using your same search terms I do now see those results marked as "Ads". I've not noted that before but obviously Google has rolled out the change that I wished they didn't make. 
    Those screens actual come from the articles. Sounds like it hasn’t rolled out everywhere. 
  • Reply 19 of 21
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,498member
    The only one that I find annoying is in Music. Ads for AppleMusic, buttons to play a song, that only bring up a sign up for AppleMusic, click on the app to take me to the music store and up pops an ad for AppleMusic, it seems like I can’t do much of anything without running into a bloody come on for AppleMusic. No Apple, I don’t want it, I’m never going to want it, i don’t care about the free three months I don’t want it. The more you harangue me about it the LESS likely I am ever going to want it just on principle if nothing else. Other then there, and the one line in the AppStore games section for Arcade games I can’t say I’ve  really run across that many ads for Apple Services.
    edited February 2020
  • Reply 20 of 21
    stukestuke Posts: 108member
    Hear hear!  I concur exactly with your final statement. Love Apple but I don’t want to subscribe to every service so now I’m bombarded with Apple News+ articles and need to scroll through more to read regular news. Flipboard isn’t much better but...

    Good story. 
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