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Your Next Android Phone’s Lock Screen Could Be Filled With Ads

Glance, a Google-backed mobile ad company, has plans to expand its lock screen platform in the U.S.

While it’s true that the Android lock screen could use a little perking up since Apple revealed what it’s doing for iOS, this isn’t what we were thinking. According to TechCrunch, mobile ad company, Glance, is planning to launch its lock screen platform on Android devices in the U.S. within the next two months.

According to the report, Glance has been in talks with U.S. wireless carriers and it plans to launch on several smartphones as soon as next month. TechCrunch’s source is a person “familiar with the matter” who requested anonymity as “the deliberations are ongoing and private.”

Glance did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment and we’ll update this post when we hear back.

Glance is a subsidiary of InMobi, a mobile marketing platform based in India. It’s been referred to as India’s first unicorn startup due to its fundraising success. It even managed to secure Google as an investor a few years back.

Glance comes pre-installed on a heaping helping of Android devices overseas, including Samsung’s budget line of smartphones. It’s not an Android app in the traditional sense, meaning you can hop into the Google Play store and download it. Instead, it rests on top of the Android OS as a sort of overlay. Glance is also a major part of Pragati OS, a custom version of Android developed between Google and Jio for affordable smartphones like the Jio Phone Next.

Glance exists primarily as a dynamic lock screen. Once you turn on the phone screen, you’ll see updated content, like a different wallpaper, news headlines, and video. But it also displays advertisements, and although they’re not blaring on the screen like the pop-up ads of the internet yesterday, they are annoying enough that you can quickly surface message board threads of users trying to disable the ability. While browsing for this story, I even came across this Realme India support account on Twitter apologizing for the lack of ability to disable Glance altogether.

While you can unlock the phone to bypass the content, Glance is programmed to allow you to continue scrolling through to interact with different panels featuring content you might actually want, like news and original video. Beyond its captive audience approach, the company seems to believe it has potential with an “entice you to stay awhile” model. Earlier this year, Glance launched an Android TV experience for Indian customers, promising users the ability to “interact directly in real-time with their favorite stars on their television home screens.”

Despite the perceived success in other corners of the world, it’s worrying that Glance is setting its sights on the United States. Low-end and mid-range device users already get the short end of the stick when buying a smartphone through a carrier. The phone models offered tend to be low performing and delayed on essential software updates. Imagine dealing with all that on top of bloatware advertisements and unsolicited content that you can’t unbundle or deactivate.

Nothing has been officially announced from Glance’s side, but the existence of advertising on Android smartphones has become a genuine concern over the past few years. To offer an anecdote, I’ve been using the OnePlus 9 since last summer, and the official company app constantly pushes through promotions and things of that sort in the notification shade. The same thing occurred on some Samsung devices, which showed advertising popping up all over the company’s stock apps, including Samsung Health and the Galaxy Store. Fortunately, there’s a fix coming through in Android 13 that blocks out all unwanted pings in the pull-down notification shade the minute you install an app, but that doesn’t fix the core issue.

If more companies find that users are willing to tolerate this kind of forced advertisement, it could hurt the already frayed reputation of the Android platform. That could spell good news for Apple, which has managed to maintain parity in iOS between the “cheaper” models of the iPhone and its latest marquee units while gaining market share. Google is primarily in the ad business and the Android platform is, at least in part, about data collection that feeds ad targeting. Pushing users to invest in an Apple phone that isn’t riddled with bloatware could be a self-own that it really doesn’t need.

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