In-App Ads Drain Up To 75% Of Your Phone’s Battery


Free apps aren't so free after all
Photo: Apple

Free apps that display in-app advertising are sucking the life out of your cellphone’s battery. A team led by Abhinav Pathak, a computer boffin at Purdue University, Indiana, found that around “65%-75% of energy in free apps is spent in third-party advertising modules.”

Translation: Free apps like Angry Birds and Facebook may actually cost you more than paid apps in the end.

The researchers studied (PDF) Android and “Windows Mobile,” although the same problems would apply in some degree to iOS. The problems come when the apps switch on power-draining devices like GPS, the camera or SD card readers. Pathak and his team found that Angry Birds, for example, spends just 20 of the energy it uses on the game itself. The rest goes on tracking the user’s location and serving location-targeted ads.

Now, the iPhone gets pretty great battery life for a smartphone, but even so, location services and ad-streaming will have some impact on battery life. So here’s a suggestion: Instead of cheaping out and whining that a $2 app is “expensive,” why not just pay for it? Because the alternative seems to be that you’ll be paying for it anyway, in terms of wasted electricity and annoyingly short battery life: Some of these apps can drain your battery in just 90 minutes.

[Via New Scientist]

  • joewaylo

    That makes sense. It is downloading an iAd and AdMob file every time you’re connected to the internet.

  • criticmac

    Copy edit? Copy Edit? 

  • MacHead

    Facebook app has ads? 

  • travisbchapman

    Yeah, I’m really noticing that some of the Cult of Mac writers aren’t the brightest… I guess they deserve kudos for trying and enthusiasm. 

  • djrobsd

    Don’t Jailbroken iPhones have some way of blocking the ad servers on your phone?  I have noticed that games do drain the battery much faster.  I always thought it was just the screen being on the whole time you’re playing.  Is the author of this article suggesting that the GPS and the network connection to the ad server is actually doing it?  And what’s to say that using the PAID version isn’t also phoning home???

  • djrobsd

    I’m confused.  If these games all use location services, then why aren’t the in the location services settings on the phone???  This article raises a lot more questions then it gives answers.