Samsung's ads-blocking app

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We are used to the very public war between Android and iOS or to be more precise, between Google and Apple. Now that Google has overtaken Apple as the world’s most valuable company, the relationship between the two is only going to be more frosty in the coming years. What is not too common is the festering tension between Google and Samsung.

Samsung's ads-blocking app

The relationship between the two companies is akin to sleeping with the enemy or the war of the sexes. Samsung with its Galaxy smartphones, sells more Android devices than any other company. Since Samsung announced its intention to develop the Tizen OS for its smartphones, the tensions between the two has being growing steadily.

And to further rack up these tensions between them, Google just pulled down Samsung’s ads-blocking app, Adblock Fast, from the Google Play store. Just a few days ago, Samsung upgrade its browser to include the ad-blocker to improve the browsing experience for users.

Samsung's ads-blocking app

Google is justifying the move by claiming that Samsung’s ads-blocking app is in breach of the agreement between Google and OEMs for use of the Android OS. It is specifically pointing to section 4.4 which prohibits apps on the Google Play store from tampering with third party services like ads. The section States that,

You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Store, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages or accesses in an unauthorised manner the devices, servers, networks or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator. You may not use customer information obtained from the Store to sell or distribute Products outside of the Store.”

The app must have being a hit because it has already being downloaded over 50,000 times from Google Play before Google pulled the plug on it. One would think Samsung would publish the app on its own app store first, however, the app is not there. This is very strange given that Samsung’s ads-blocking app was made primarily for the browsers on Samsung smartphones.

This is not be the first time Google would be pulling down an ad-blocker from Play store. For instance, three years ago, Google removed the popular Adblock Plus and similar apps from Play store. Though somehow, Adblock Plus made a comeback to Play store last year.

It is thought that the major reason Adblock Plus was able to make a comeback was because it is embedded in its own browser. If that is the case, Samsung’s ads-blocking app should enjoy the same exception since it is only an add-on to the Samsung browser found only in Samsung phones; which meant it won’t affect other apps, neither will it work in Google’s Chrome.

Samsung's ads-blocking app

Is this partial treatment just another strong indicator of the tense relationship between the two giants?

However, it is quite understandable why Google goes all out to ban ad-blocker apps from Play store. Google gets a huge chunk of its revenue from ads. The more ads the better. Ads blocker on the other hand, work to undermine this business model. And to be clear, as more people spend more time on their smartphones, the money to be made from in-apps ads is going to keep on growing. Ads-blocking apps, like Samsung’s ads-blocking app, throw a spanner in the scheme of attracting more ads to the Android platform.

And let’s face the brutal truth. Ads are irritating and annoying. But someone has to pay for many of the free stuff we get online. Without these ads, the Internet as we know it, would not be sustainable.

The best way for Samsung to go round this ban is to put its own browser (with the AdBlock Fast already built into it) on Play store. And since the folks at Samsung are making a lot of noise about building their own version of Android, they can also integrate the browser and the ad-blocker into the OS. Google won’t be able to do anything about that. Although that would surely increase the tensions between them.

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