IronSource Rolls Out Content Rec For New Phones To Cut Down On Pre-Installed Crapware

bloatwareApp distribution platform ironSource launched a solution Tuesday to give mobile carriers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers an alternative to pre-installed apps – sometimes called “bloatware” by consumers.

Dubbed Aura, the platform aims to revamp the onboarding process for users when they buy a new Android or Windows phone by presenting recommended content to download. Development on Aura began in 2014 and it’s operated in stealth mode since mid-2015.

Pre-installing apps and content onto a user’s device might seem like a good way to get automatic distribution – but just because something’s there doesn’t mean a user will use it.

Or that they won’t resent it. Recall Apple customers not taking too kindly to the automatic iTunes download of a U2 album in 2014 or, a bit more injuriously, when Lenovo preloaded adware (really more like malware) called Superfish that compromised the security of its machines.

The objective with Aura is to increase engagement and reduce churn by giving users a choice, said Arnon Harish, president and co-founder of ironSource.

“Preloading content is bad for the end user because it’s done without the user’s consent,” Harish said. “It’s bad for the advertiser because it’s a static marketplace and it usually requires at least a two- to three-year deal with the OEM or mobile operator they’re working with. And it’s bad for the OEM and the carrier because it’s a completely untargeted way to offer content to users.”

IronSource has partnerships with 30 global carriers and device manufacturers, including HTC and Taiwanese computer hardware company Asus, which give Aura a footprint of more than 100 million devices.

Although HTC devices still come pre-installed with “essential” HTC apps, such as clock and camera, and a number of Google apps, like Calendar and Mail, the device manufacturer is moving away from pre-installing.

“Ultimately, our goal is to move toward a better user experience,” said Garfield Hsieh, HTC’s senior manager for software. “We’ve recognized that customizability and personalization is a huge part of that when it comes to today’s generation of smartphone users. People want the flexibility to set up their devices how they want and then to be able to remove unwanted apps if and when they need to.”

When users unbox a new phone, they’re generally in discovery mode, Harish said, which makes it a particularly good time to recommend stuff to download. And within the next couple of months, ironSource is planning to roll out smart notifications that allow operators, OEMs and devs to target users with content throughout their life cycle based on user ID, device model, country and context.

For example, say a user runs out of storage while taking pictures or video. Aura could recommend downloading Google Drive or Dropbox or suggest infrequently used apps that could be deleted. If someone’s visiting a new city, it might make sense to suggest taxi or map apps.

“The key is offering relevant content when someone needs it and letting the user choose,” Harish said. “This creates a marketplace where advertisers can bid to promote their content and our OEM and mobile operator clients can promote their owned-and-operated content.”

HTC is also using Aura to learn more about how consumers are using its devices, noting, for example, that shopping apps tend to be very popular with its users or that specific regions can have a significant impact on which apps users choose to download when first setting up their phone.

“Getting that kind of insight into what our customers really want is invaluable, and helps us tailor our offering to them in a much more relevant way,” Hsieh said.

There’s been a growing trend around carriers and mobile operators taking more control of monetization. Now, OEMs and device manufacturers are also starting to ride that wave.

“[But] while adding new monetization opportunities in a great step, the real benefit here is being able to develop an ongoing relationship with our customers through interacting with them on a regular basis in a way that adds value,” Hsieh said. “For our customers, HTC isn’t just providing a device, but a more rewarding and enjoyable mobile experience.”

 

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