Like it or not, and many definitely don’t, ads have become part and parcel of the modern digital life. It’s not that ads themselves are bad. In fact, for some, it’s the only way to generate revenue for something they offer for free. What makes ads the villains, however, are the way people have unscrupulously used every trick they can come up with to inconvenience or, worse, mislead users. Google has been cracking down on inappropriate uses of ads on Android, and the latest to get the banhammer are apps that put those ads on phones’ lockscreens.
The new Google Play Developer Policy on “Lockscreen Monetization” isn’t a blanket ban on ads on lockscreens. The documentation is actually very simple and specific:
“Unless the exclusive purpose of the app is that of a lockscreen, apps may not introduce ads or features that monetize the locked display of a device.”
So any app other than a lockscreen replacement isn’t allowed to put an ad on the lockscreen and that’s pretty much it. Apps like file managers, games, and such are disallowed from doing that at the risk of being kicked out of the Google Play Store. On the other hand, apps like Cheetah Mobile’s CM Locker and Microsoft’s Next Lock Screen could, in theory still put ads if they choose to do so.
While the policy is simple, it does put into question the fate of one particular smartphone seller: Amazon. Amazon has its Prime Exclusive unlocked phones that it sells at a discount with a catch. It serves up ads on the phones’ lockscreens. The app responsible for this, Amazon Offers, is on Google Play Store and isn’t a lockscreen replacement. In other words, it would technically fall under the ban.
The solution for Amazon wouldn’t exactly be simple. It could bake the feature into the firmware for its Prime Exclusive phones, but that would put the burden of maintenance and updates on its shoulders. It might as well just put Fire OS on them again and get rid of its dependence on Google. Considering how relationships between the two companies have soured over the YouTube-Echo debacle, this latest policy is sure to reignite the fire.