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Free Apps Eat Your Smartphone Battery 214

judgecorp writes "Here's a reason to pay for smartphone apps: the free versions can spend three times as much energy finding and serving ads as they do serving their actual purpose. Research from a Purdue University scientist found that as much as 75 percent of the energy used by free apps (PDF) goes on accessing location services, finding suitable advertisements and displaying them."
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Free Apps Eat Your Smartphone Battery

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  • Not always true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:34PM (#39405853)

    The custom firmware I use on my Android smartphone redirects all ad domains to, so no ads for me.

    • Still the software is doing additional calls to try to get the data.
      Plus your phone is taking time to process/reject those calls.
    • adblocker does this for you - as long as you have root, no need for custom firmware

    • Or ::1, if IPv6 is being used
  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyrannosaur ( 2485772 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:34PM (#39405855)

    Ads Eat Your Smartphone Battery

    • Re:Correction (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:39PM (#39405907)

      Ads Eat Your Smartphone Battery

      More specifically, bad ad serving code eats your smartphone battery.

      If your app connects to an ad server/framework every minute, or on particular events, etc. etc. each time... then yes, that's going to suck down energy real fast.

      Instead, download multiple ads (in the background), serve from that pool.

      Better yet, as somebody at a Dutch tech site suggested, let shared ad frameworks do this so that N ads downloaded can be shared across multiple apps.

      There are down sides, of course:
      - the ads in the pool may become outdated. I.e. if somebody searched for PNDs today, the ads downloaded yesterday won't be notifying you of the latest TomTom/Garmin/whatever offerings. This can be corrected by always refreshing after a set time.
      - you may end up downloading more ads than you'll actually use before such a refresh, which means you actually used more energy (and bandwidth) than you would have under traditional methods.

      But in general, all this opening/closing of connections which in turn may or may not lead to 3G / 4G modules kicking into action, etc. is just inefficient.

    • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @03:17PM (#39406295)

      In other news:

      Ads on television waste anywhere from 1/3rd to one-half the power used while watching TV. ;-) Back in the 1960/70s when ads were only 9 minutes per hour, TV ads only wasted 15% power.

    • They do more than that. I have read where some ad based apps actually read and transmit your contacts database and other bits of information out of your phone to do unknown things with "our partners." (Not all of their partners are people who sell things... sometimes they are private intelligence and government.)

      People are simply not careful when it comes to apps on Android... not like they are careful elsewhere, but you know?

      I have been in discussions like these where "well meaning people" say things lik

  • AdAway (Score:4, Informative)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:38PM (#39405881) Homepage

    Android + AdAway (free, in the market) on a rooted device == no ads. It also mitigates the security risks associated with third party ads.

    • Re:AdAway (Score:4, Informative)

      by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:44PM (#39405969) Journal

      Mostly. I got bit briefly by Airpush ads, which seem to be immune to hosts redirections, which both AdAway and (my choice) AdFree use.

      To locate the apps that sneak in Airpush capabilities, I use AirPush Detector, which (quoting the author) "detects other installed applications which appear to use known notification ad frameworks and offers the user the ability to easily uninstall them.... This app is open source...."

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe DroidWall will work. It only allows network access to apps that you grant permission.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          Airpush got around droidwall on my phone, but then again, the app that was infested required internet access to perform it's primary function. Once I figured out which app used airpush (that was the hard part) I uninstalled it, and left detailed negative feedback for the app in the market.

          It's one thing to put ads in your app, but what right does any developer think they have to put ads in my notification bar when the app isn't even running!?!?!?!

  • Between not watching TV, having AdBlock on computers and AdFree on my phone, I can't remember the last time I saw one.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:46PM (#39405997)

      Since you obviously read Slashdot, I'd say you see at least a couple every day. They're just disguised as stories.

    • by Cinder6 ( 894572 )

      Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?

      Fry: Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines and movies and at ball games and on buses and milk cartons and T-shirts and written in the sky. But not in dreams. No, sir-ee!

      • by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @03:41PM (#39406539)

        You know, come to think of it.. I don't think I've ever dreamed (of) an ad.

        Off-topic as this might be, I'm going to pose this as a serious question: have any of you ever dreamed an ad?

        I've had a great many number of dreams that range wildly in topics and vividness. I once woke up remember several lines of text from a book I was reading in my dream - I googled the lines of text but as far as it was concerned, those lines were not written anywhere for it to find.

        But I don't recall having ever seen an ad. Or even related. I.e. walking down a city, I remember stores, I remember cars, traffic, people, the rain, a gust of wind... I don't, however, remember any H&M ads in the bus stalls, or Heineken sign outside a bar.

        ( Of course now that I've written this, I'll bet I'll be dreaming of ads come tonight. Damn. )

    • Walking down the street?
  • You mean a extra program running to fetch ads over the internet takes more battery?!?
    Oh my, it's such a big surprise!!!
    Next you're going to tell me that turning up the brightness to max takes up more battery too!
    • Re:What?!? (Score:4, Funny)

      by kenh ( 9056 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:43PM (#39405961) Homepage Journal

      Apps that download ads use 100% more energy downlaoding ads than apps that don't download ads... Who knew?

      Next up, parked cars consume 100% less gas than cars being driven down the road.

      And there is a study underway in Europe that hopes to confirm my suspicion that empty boxes weigh less than full boxes.

      • Mathematically speaking, apps that download ads use infinitely more energy for that process than apps that don't. Either that or you divide by 0 and destroy the universe.
  • App developers for iPhones and Android devices want to be paid for the work they do. Some of those developers release 2 versions of their apps: ones with ads for free, and another that costs money with no ads. Most people tend to vote for the "ads" version because it seems free to them.

    If this article is right, it may be work paying for those $0.99 apps as it will save you money in electricity and time/announces.

    • Not if you only charge your phone at work. Let your employer pay that extra energy cost!
      • Not if you only charge your phone at work. Let your employer pay that extra energy cost!

        Or your Mom (in her basement).

  • Apps eat your smartphone battery.

    And.. Who knew? We all thought it was the multicore faries.

    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      multicore faries

      do you know how much of a pain they are to catch when they make it in to your data center?? especially now that most are getting rid of their Sun boxes, they just wander and hide in the closest glowing box, which are everywhere..

  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:41PM (#39405929) Homepage

    As an app developer and heartless cynic, I'd say if the ads make up 3/4 of the power budget, that sounds like a really stupid and useless app. If it's not busy presenting content, calculating something, or entertaining the user, then it's a total waste of CPU not even worth the ad pennies.

    There are so many moronic apps out there, designed with the sole purpose of duping the user and profiting the developer. Humanity is wasting countless man-millenia defrauding each other via these gadgets, thanks to undiscerning advertisers and the plague that is in-app purchasing. If you want to save energy, start by raising the standards for mobile apps a little higher than "paid the developer signup fee".

    • Re:Most apps suck (Score:4, Informative)

      by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:51PM (#39406045) Journal
      The problem is that the app store business model has generated a type of user that won't generally pay anything over even $.99 for any app, regardless of how useful it might seem to be. The only way to generate revenue from this extremely HUGE section of the market is to have advertisements in the application that can produce a continuous revenue stream from these people, with, of course, an option to make an in-app purchase that disables the ads, and perhaps unlocks additional features.
      • Well, part of that reason is that phone/tablet apps are very limited subsets of their desktop analogs. It's a toy platform, you can't expect people to spend professional-level money on its software. I'm not going to drop $45 on a photoshop clone when all I can realistically do with it is finger-painting and morphing people's faces into goofy caricatures. The few apps that are truly valuable tend to come with the base OS: web browser, email, notepad. I could maybe use a simple spreadsheet, but Google web

  • You could just purchase ONE application that manages all of this for you. Besides, I don't generally make it a habit of using applications that request location services yet don't seem to have a reason to do so. Oh right, you use an iPhone and you can't see those permissions before you download. Sorry.
    • You could just purchase ONE application that manages all of this for you. Besides, I don't generally make it a habit of using applications that request location services yet don't seem to have a reason to do so. Oh right, you use an iPhone and you can't see those permissions before you download. Sorry.

      Oh quit trolling. On an iPhone the app will ask after you download and if you don't like that, just delete it. BFD!

  • free != ads (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:44PM (#39405975)
    There are free apps without ads and there are paid for apps with ads. Title should be that ads eat up battery life, which is kind of a no brainer.
  • What ads? (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by gox ( 1595435 )

    Use free software, don't support them by "seeing ads", support them with direct donations.

  • That should really read "Adware drains your battery" which is not only more accurate, but makes the article both banal as well as un-surprising.

  • JuiceDefender (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <slashdot.uberm00@net> on Monday March 19, 2012 @02:53PM (#39406075) Homepage Journal

    I rarely shill for a product but if you have an Android phone with a less-than-optimal battery (like me), JuiceDefender [juicedefender.com] does wonders. It turns off your phone's wi-fi and data connections (except for situations you configure like a streaming radio app is open) when your screen is off, turning them back on every X minutes so apps like email an sync on a reasonable schedule while not killing your battery. This by itself can save a huge amount of battery life (though it can do a lot more).

    By its own calculations (which I of course take with a grain of salt) it has more than doubled my effective battery life, and I would guess from practical use that it's nearly correct.

    • I'd like to use JuiceDefender, but I also use Tasker to reconfigure various settings, often based on proximity to specific Wifi access points (which provides cheap and fairly accurate geo-location), and JD turning the Wifi off and on all the time confuses Tasker.
  • If those apps are free, just write a patch and recompile. *ducks*
  • For small smart phone apps that are easy to use you have a few business models to help pay for your time.

    1. Charge for the app. Because it cost money a lot of people will not want to pay for it even though they wast more money a day on coffee, as there is a risk involved making the choice for the app... And for those early iPod owners they realize a dollar per song/app adds up overtime if you are not careful.

    2. Free App with adds. Basically give the app for free as a something useful enough for them to to
  • Use "AdAway" by Dominik Schurmann. Free in Google Market.

    Also you could run "DroidWall" which allows you to white list what apps may connect to the web.

    Since everyone else is mentioning their custom ROMs I'm running Blu Kuban on a Sumsung Galaxy S2 (Sprint Epic Touch version)

  • It talks over 3G and retrieves ads for display on the Homepage and screen saver. I never thought about how much battery power that would drain. (Of course it lasts over month so not really an issue I guess?)

    • I believe the ads are downloaded as a batch every month or so. I've kept my wifi Kindle off the net for a month and now it displays a generic screensaver which at the bottom requests that I connect to wifi to get updated "offers". I assume 3G's work similarly. Using a recent model kindle with keyboard.
  • If you calculate the actual energy requirements of the ad serving functions on the average users phone over the lifespan of said phone, I'm reasonably, almost 53% sure that the cost of that energy probably doesn't add up to a single purchase of the I Am Rich app.
  • The solution here is to ensure that the app store shows the funding model of the app to the user before installation.

    Personally, I *really* object to adverts on my phone: it's my personal space, my privacy, and screen/bandwidth/battery are far too limited to waste.
    We should be able to filter the app funding model. For example, when given 50 different apps that do basically the same thing, I'd consider:

    [Best] ; F0SS (GPL/BSD etc) ; Free beer, closed source without ads. ; Paid ; Advert funded ; Demo

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      And apple not allowing scumbag app authors adding in apps on an update. I have bought a couple of apps that suddenly had ad's. the ONLY apps that should be allowed ad's are free ones.

    • by slapout ( 93640 )

      I've made very little money with my paid, no ads app. My next app is going to have ads just so I can see if there's any difference.

      • Please allow your users to upgrade to a paid, ad-free version, or include it as a "pro" version in the app store.

    • [Best] ; F0SS (GPL/BSD etc) ; Free beer, closed source without ads. ; Paid ; Advert funded

      So how would one fund the development of, say, a video game that is either FOSS or "Free beer, closed source without ads"? There are a bunch of countries where Google Checkout doesn't work. The only applications that show up in Google Play (formerly Android Market) in these countries are the free ones. So to make applications available to the widest audience, developers have had to make them ad-supported instead of paid. This glut of ad-supported "free" apps has established a customary price point [wikipedia.org], which ha

      • Well, you can always do an out-of-band payment method, or simply use the honour system:
        "If you like my app, donate what you think it's worth by paypal, then check this box to hide the ad".

        I can't be the only one who thinks that adverts on a smartphone are intolerable (perhaps with the exception of on the settings or about page).
        I'm a bit reluctant to use adblock on a free app, but that is the alternative: if an app shows annoying intrusive ads in the user's private, personal space, it's so v

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Well, you can always do an out-of-band payment method, or simply use the honour system

          I was under the impression that app stores banned applications from doing this [macstories.net].

          • Only Apple do. The Android Market isn't locked down in this way - and even if it were, you can install apps from "non-market sources" on any android phone, just by clicking the checkbox (no need to root it).

  • turn off Location Services. Plus, I don't like the my phone keeping tabs on my every movement giving that data to who-knows-who.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @03:36PM (#39406465) Homepage

    Jailbroken and custom hosts file makes them not serve any ads. I did not agree to pay for airtime for the ad's, so Until they pay for my data plan, I'm doing what I can to block ad's on my phone.

  • And they are not Free: merely gratis.

  • you thing that is bad try roaming with them and your data bill can be X50-X100+ time the cost of buying the app.

  • by flibuste ( 523578 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @03:56PM (#39406711)
    As a developer of entirely free Android applications (free as in "beer" and in "free of ads"), I take offense at the overgeneralization of the article to "Free Applications". If you are not a careful reader, this may lead you to think that ALL free apps are full of ads AND power eaters.
    A lot of "free" apps don't have ads and don't use more power than any other app. Many behave actually way better than paid ones.
    Stupid article is stupid.
    • by AdamJS ( 2466928 )

      For most users, the vast majority of free apps are ad-laden and (for many therein) functionally crippled versions of better, paid applications.

  • by CosaNostra Pizza Inc ( 1299163 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @04:14PM (#39406877)
    First of all, not all free apps are adware. That's because some app developers (myself included) write apps for the fun of it. Also another factor: commercial apps tend to display lots of glitzy colors, graphics and animation. Turned-off (black) pixels don't drain the battery. Don't get me wrong, I've seen free apps that light up the entire display too. Free or not, what matters is whether the developer is conscious of saving the battery when designing the app. As an example, I use an app called Easy Battery Saver on my Galaxy Nexus to monitor batter usage...It reports that my display accounts for about 30% of my total battery consumption.
    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      First of all, not all free apps are adware. That's because some app developers (myself included) write apps for the fun of it.

      So how do you pay the bills while devoting sufficient time to "the fun of it" including promotion and user support? What's an ideal split between a day job and a hobby of developing Free or freeware applications?

      Turned-off (black) pixels don't drain the battery.

      This might be true of AMOLED panels, but the fluorescent or LED backlight of an LCD panel uses the same power no matter how many pixels are darkened.

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