Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Promotes Its Services Through Pervasive and Often Disruptive In-App Advertising

Next month will mark a year since Apple publicly pivoted itself in the direction of a services-oriented company. As far as the company’s revenue is concerned, it has been extremely successful — but it has not come easily.

Steve Streza:

If you don’t subscribe to these services, you’ll be forced to look at these ads constantly, either in the apps you use or the push notifications they have turned on by default. The pervasiveness of ads in iOS is a topic largely unexplored, perhaps due to these services having a lot of adoption among the early adopter crowd that tends to discuss Apple and their design. This isn’t a value call on the services themselves, but a look at how aggressively Apple pushes you to pay for them, and how that growth-hack-style design comes at the expense of the user experience. In this post, I’ll break down all of the places in iOS that I’ve found that have Apple-manufactured ads. You can replicate these results yourself by doing a factory reset of an iPhone (backup first!), installing iOS 13, and signing up for a new iCloud account.

Michael Tsai has collected even more examples of where Apple has aggressively pushed users to subscribe to its services.

Streza calls iOS “adware”, which I think is hyperbolic. But there’s no denying that using Apple’s products is starting to feel like visiting a department store that’s more intent on pushing its credit card than selling you a pair of shoes.

For me, the result has been plainly obvious: I treat many of Apple’s first-party apps as mere containers for the company’s subscription services. Ever since it has become an advertisement for Apple News Plus, I have almost never opened News. It’s the same with the TV app — particularly on my Apple TV — which I previously used to watch purchased and downloaded media.

As for Music? Tyler Hall:

To date, that’s $4,755 I’ve legally paid for digital music.

[…]

I don’t have the foggiest clue where that amount of money places me as a music customer. Surely not the low end of consumers? But I doubt the high side either. I’m guessing I’m somewhere in the upper-middle compared to what most digital natives have spent on music.

But my point is this.

I happily and enthusiastically paid for all that music. But now? Every time I see the $14.99 charge for our Apple Music family plan hit my checking account, I wince. I pay it begrudgingly because I feel like I have no other choice.

In my head, I bucket all monthly charges under the category of “bills”. I pay my rent, I pay my phone bill, I pay for internet, I pay for insurance, I pay for iCloud, and I pay for Apple Music. Some of these things are utilities; music shouldn’t feel like a utility, but it does now.

Of course, I could — and do — pay to download music in much the same way Charles Avison used to. But I also pay for Apple Music every month in part because, if I didn’t, the Music app would be a portal to advertising.

I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for Apple to use its platform owner advantage to push its services, but I do think that, currently, it is making those products worse. And there’s something else, too: if it were possible to set non-Apple apps as defaults and third-party developers were able to offer subscriptions without going through in-app purchases, would Apple’s services be so successful? I’m not sure they would.