Study Suggests Apps Which Include Ads Contain "Hidden Costs" For Both The End User And The Developer


App developers are always torn when it comes to making their app offerings available to the public. This is usually due to the decision of whether to make an app free at the point-of-sale or whether to make apps free at first and look to reclaim some revenue back through after-download sales. Typically, by the inclusion of ads. Normally, the decision as to where to include ads is decided based on more obvious factors, like how will the displaying of ads affect game/app play? Will they be too intrusive and are these suitable for the app or game in question.

Well, a recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are hoping their findings might further help app developers to make the decision on whether or not to include ads in their app offerings. This is because their findings suggest that the price of an ad-supported app should not entirely be defined by the monetary cost to the end user in terms of price. In fact, the findings suggest that (free) apps which contain ads drain users batteries faster, resulting in devices running slower and using more data. Although, the results were somewhat negligible in how much the difference of battery drain is in real terms, the fact that there is battery drain at all, has led to the conclusion that even a difference like this, could be a defining aspect as to whether a user will want to download an app or not. According to William Halfond, Co-corresponding author of the study, "In absolute terms, this is very low, but in the crowded and competitive world of apps it's a huge difference." Further adding, "It can make the difference between your app getting downloaded or going unnoticed."


In terms of the actual study, the USC researchers along with researchers from two other Universities (Rochester Institute of Technology RIT, and Queen's University in Canada) compared "21 top apps" from last year. These "top apps" were defined as those which had been in the "top 400 of each of Google Play's 30 categories from January to August". Interestingly, the device used to measure the performance of the apps was a Samsung Galaxy S II. The findings suggest that apps which used ads tended to use up to 33 percent more energy. Which on average was noted as 16 percent. This was equated to a lowering of the battery life to 2.1 hours from the average 2.5 hours. The findings also suggested that apps which used ads tended to use (on average) 48 percent more CPU time. Lastly, based on the notion that all apps have to be essentially downloaded, the nature of downloading an app with ads meant these ad-included-apps also use more mobile data than those without ads. On average, 79-percent more data than those without ads, which the researchers equated to costing in the region of 1.7 cents each time. As a result of the study, Holford hopes app developers will factor in the additional costs, ad-based apps might incur compared to the other app monetization models.

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John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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