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Cheap phone lock screens could soon be covered in ads — this sounds terrible

Lock screen ads placed by Glance
(Image credit: Glance)

The best cheap phones in 2022 offer solid options for anyone who doesn't want to spend $800 or more on a phone, but there are some trade-offs, and soon, there could be one more.

According to a report from TechCrunch, we may see budget phones in the U.S. launching with ads on their lock screens before the end of the year due to a deal between wireless carriers and Glance, a mobile ad company that has made similar deals in India and other markets in the past (via Gizmodo).

What will these lock screen ads look like?

These aren't pop-up ads that will interfere with your usage of the phone once you unlock it, but they are persistent on your lock screen, and assuming they follow the same model as in other countries, there is no simple method for disabling the ads. This is unlike the Amazon Fire tablets and Kindle with ads model, which allows you to pay a one-time fee to disable the ads.

The ad experience is apparently robust with the ability to scroll through multiple windows of ads and view video and news content that presumably is either sponsored or otherwise carries some revenue through to the advertiser when you interact with the content.

What are you getting out of it?

While you can swipe to unlock the phone and ignore the ads, there are a few things about this that rub me the wrong way. The first is that I would hope to see an even more significant discount on any phone with this ad model built into it. While I'll be happy to be proven wrong, I just have my doubts that's going to happen.

The second is that these lock screen ads may hurt your battery life, depending on how taxing they are for the phone. And when they are triggered, it could meaningfully impact your experience, and again, to what benefit for you?

Finally, how secure is this app and how is it vetting the ads that are running through its network? We already run stories about spyware hijacking phones and bugs being used to steal your money on a near-daily basis; the last thing Android users need is another potential vector for attack with this ad service overlay on top of Android.

For now, this remains a rumor, but we'll keep an eye out for it over the coming months and bring you a closer look at the details if we start seeing cheap phones with lock screen ads on U.S. carriers. Phones like the iPhone SE (2022) and the soon-to-be-released Pixel 6a may be even more compelling budget options if lock screen ads become common on other phones.

Sean Riley
Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.