Photo: iStockPhoto
Photo: iStockPhoto

iPhone users in India embrace ad blocking: survey

GlobalWebIndex survey shows that 42% of India's iPhone 6 users use the software to block ads on their devices compared with global average of 31%

Bengaluru: iPhone users in India are warming up to the US phone maker’s move to introduce ad blocking on its devices, as mobile banner blocking gains grounds in one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world.

A recent survey by market researcher GlobalWebIndex shows that 42% of India’s iPhone 6 users use the software to block ads on their devices compared with a global average of 31%.

Apple earlier this year introduced a feature on the latest version of its mobile operating software iOS 9 that lets users block ads on its Safari browser, though many experts were sceptical about users going the extra mile to download an ad blocking software. Apple, however, does not allow ads to be blocked inside apps.

“There’s a sizable audience who are likely to adopt a similar approach on their smartphones and this is a behaviour which could spread quickly across devices, which could spell the end of the mobile ad banner," the survey said.

The technology company’s move has spawned a number of ad blocking software companies around the world, including BlockBear, 1Blockr and Adblock Mobile.

India ranked fourth among the 34 countries surveyed by the market researcher—after Russia, Poland and Indonesia—in terms of adoption of ad block.

To be sure, Apple accounts for only a tiny share of India’s smartphone market. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple has a 1.5% share of the 190 million smartphones sold in India thus far. Android-based devices accounted for 93% of the market.

Browser-based ad blocking— which helps remove obstructive ads such as auto-play videos, blinking banners and animated images—on the desktop has been on the rise over the last few years. On the mobile website they help improve the upload speed and cut down data consumption.

According to a report published by Adobe Inc. and PageFair, a start-up that helps advertisers circumvent ad blocking, the total digital advertising spending in India in the quarter that ended in June was $938 million, while the cost to publishers from digital ad blocking was $74 million.

Some companies such as mobile advertising technology firm InMobi Technologies Pvt. Ltd say native advertisements that blend paid content with editorials is the way forward.

“It finely balances user experience and publisher’s revenue goals. Adblocking will only increase the adoption of native apps. This will incentivize publishers to make their apps even better," said Amit Gupta, co-founder and president of InMobi’s North America operations.

InMobi, which earns most of its revenue from native advertising, said it will not be affected by the rising adoption of ad blockers on mobile browsers. However, some experts say even native ads could be vulnerable to sophisticated blocking software.

Most mobile advertising companies earn the bulk of their revenue from in-app and native advertising.

However, in India, the high cost of data consumption is increasingly prompting more smartphone users to disable clunky apps, and using web browsers to consume content.

For instance, online marketplace Flipkart.com that shut down its mobile website in March re-launched the site last month to make it easier and convenient for consumers who use inexpensive smartphones to shop online using web browsers.

“The size of images downloaded on a website is much higher than on apps, and ads shrink battery life and consume more data. They are more bandwidth-hungry," said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research.

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