Samsung removing ads from its apps is an easy win in a sea of hard choices

An ad in the Samsung weather app
An ad in the Samsung weather app (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

If you live in the western part of the world and have a Samsung phone running One UI, you know about those pesky ads Samsung likes to drop in its first-party apps. You also probably know that they are going away soon because the company decided to stop doing it. This is great news for everyone, including Samsung.

No, I'm not crazy. Nor am I saying that Samsung should make decisions that cut its profits. I am saying that it seems like the whole mess wasn't worth it, and Samsung comes out on top for getting rid of them.

First, the part that a lot of folks will disagree with: these ads weren't really that big of a deal. You saw ads in the Samsung Weather app, Samsung Pay, the Samsung Phone app, and a few other places. Sometimes these apps are for Samsung services or apps built exclusively for Samsung by third parties, but sometimes they were ads for KFC or Yahoo. The worst ones were push-notification style ads that appear in your notification bar. None of them blocked any content or added to the vast amount of data Samsung collects.

Yes, it's difficult to swallow the fact that you have to see advertisements placed by the company you just gave $1,000 (or more) when you bought the best Android phone from them. And I'm with you in thinking that this is a shitty way to treat your customers. Imagine if Toyota put ads in the instrument panel of a new car.

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

But Samsung isn't the only company that sells a bazillion phones every year and puts ads in its own apps — Apple does the same thing (opens in new tab) in the same way. I know that many people reading this will have never used an iPhone, so I'm here to tell you that the App Store, the News app, the Stocks app, and even the Settings app on the iPhone have ads in them. Sometimes for Apple products or services, sometimes for Quicken Loans.

With your new Samsung phone, you can swap out the apps that have ads for ones that don't and make them the default. On an iPhone, you really can't do the same. For some reason though, the tech press and the users called for heads to roll at Samsung over ads in "stock" apps while Apple often gets a pass. I can't explain it, but I can say that the practice isn't only a Samsung thing and nobody was ever harmed by an ad in a Samsung app.

This doesn't mean we should sit back and enjoy them or stay quiet. I've complained about them just like you have. But it wasn't enough to swear off Samsung forever unless you never really wanted to use a Samsung phone but really liked to complain about the company via the internet. But enough of me saying things that make people angry. Sorry, I just call it as I see it.

The bigger story here is all about the what. What finally spurred Samsung to pull the ads out of its apps? The first thing I always look at is the money. I have pored through every transcript of Samsung's earnings calls for the past two years, but I can't find anywhere that the company said it was making money as an ad platform.

Samsung spends a lot on ads but makes very little from hosting them.

There is plenty of talk about the company spending money to advertise but none saying that having ads in the weather app turned a profit. That's expected because Google and Facebook do everything in their power to make all the money from all the ads. There's no room left for anyone else to squeeze in right now, not even a company as wealthy as Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

The only thing I could come up with after thinking about it for a few days is that Samsung did it as a gesture of goodwill to its most loyal customers. They are the customer who buys a new Samsung phone every year and isn't interested in trying a device from anyone else. Those are the people most affected and the people who yell the loudest.

The "vocal minority" wins this time, and we all get to benefit. Hooray!

If Samsung wasn't making a lot of money from ads anyway, dropping them to appease customers is a smart move. Anshel Sag, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy told me the same thing: "I think the ad removals will be beneficial to the company. Many users find it intrusive and obnoxious." In a nutshell, making customers happy is better than making a few dollars by hosting ads.

In any case, I'm happy to see it just like you are. An ad in the phone app or even one in the notification bar from the company you just handed a bunch of money to seems kind of scummy even if it doesn't take away from the experience very much. Pulling them out of One UI will quell the complaints, and Samsung's really not losing anything in the end.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Agree 100% with your article Jerry.
  • very well said
  • Now if only Android Central would remove theirs...
  • Or at least the sound. If I pull up AC while looking for a solution to something half the office hears the ad.
  • It's kinda weird to think a few years ago, if an app used these kinds of ads, AC would have called it a garbage app that is disrespectful to it's users and advise people to avoid it like the plague.
  • tony bag o donuts: Absolutely agree with you! Many ads come on loud, then folks in the room/office/home give the stink-eye; a quick lesson on how to instantly become unpopular.
  • This a North American problem, not Western problem! Galaxy S4, S7 Edge and S10 and the only place I've ever seen Ads is in the App Store. Which I don't care there. I do turn Off Marketing but doesn't everyone? No well. Maybe I saw an Ad in Samsung Pay I guess, but never in Samsung Weather and definitely not in the Phone app. I don't know what the article is talking about.
  • I'm in Australia and get ads in Samsung apps on my S21U. So it's definitely not just a North American thing.
  • Fair enough. I'm only talking as far as the S10. Maybe that's it.
  • Speaking of ads stop putting this in every article, what the hell... "the best Android phone"
  • My guess, Apple has created a following who look past such things because they're in the brand's world so deep.
  • I've got an iPhone X and a Galaxy S21 Ultra. I can tell you exactly why Apple gets a pass on their ads. There are two reasons: 1. Apple is careful where they place their ads. Ads in a news app? That's not unexpected. After all, newspapers and magazines have been running ads since forever. Ads in the app store? That makes sense too. It's a store. I've never seen an ad in the stock app, but I'll take you word for it. As for "ads" in settings, see #2 below. 2. Apple's ads are generally well-done. The ads are formatted for the space in which they are displayed. To the point that they often just blend in. The ads in the iOS settings app, which if I recall mostly suggest that you try iCloud features, are one or two lines of plain text and match the rest of the settings UI. Meanwhile on my S21 Ultra, Samsung puts ads for Air Miles plans, Lyft and various TV services in Samsung Health and Samsung Pay. Not only that, but the ads themselves often look like resized web banner ads with tiny text, tiny tap targets, and contrasting background colours. They really look out of place. And they're almost always in a carousel that sound through multiple ads while you're checking your step count or trying to make a payment. Samsung also heavily promotes their devices - to the point where your brand-new phone will show you ads for even newer phones... which is something Apple doesn't do. It basically comes down to poor taste on Samsung's part. I'd prefer no ads whatsoever, but if you're going to show me ads in native apps on my $1000+ phone, they should be relevant to what I'm doing, and they should fit the user experience and not make a 1st party app look like a cheap app off the Play Store.
  • I have a galaxy S8 customized for Verizon. I don't use any of those Samsung apps, so never knew they had ads in them. In any case, I can't imagine why samsung would put ads in those apps. Samsung probably makes a killing collecting data on their users which I imagine they sell to others.
  • That this ever happened is sad. That Samsung is getting praise for changing things is even sadder. They might not be the only ones doing this, but they're probably the global leader in high-end smartphone sales, while also raking in money from numerous other consumer products. There's nothing other than massive greed over minor profit that explains the move in the first place, versus budget companies doing it to (relatively) make ends meet or Apple realizing its user base will never hold it accountable. Not enough people will ever suffer the inconvenience of switching a mobile platform, even between Android OEMs, so the backlash was always going to be much more verbal than fiscal. That's too bad, but it's reality. I do wish people would push back against this stuff with TVs as well though. So many TV makers are selling you high-end TVs with an OS that is ad-riddled, and most of them have tossed the ability to opt out away. I actually think this stuff WILL move into cars in the future, since it was mentioned. With the tablets and technology moving into vehicles, especially EVs, the opportunity and incentive is there. Billboards have moved to rotating, digital ads over time, and I think that structure could very well find a home in automobiles. Location-based services in newer cars makes targeted ads easy--probably easier than the billboards we pass now. It'll probably happen, and I would expect to see Tesla be the first to try it, as they have an Apple-like cult that will let them get away with it.