There's no escape: Ads come to your smartphone screen

First, Google put ads in Android KitKat's home screen, now you can get an app to put them on your lock screen -- and people do

Love to shop? Even if you don't, you may have no choice. Having filled our physical mailboxes with junk mail, our roads with billboards, our gas pumps and airport lobbies with ad-playing screens, and our email with spam, marketers are targeting one of the few sanctuaries from the barrage of sales "messages" in our everyday lives: our smartphones.

Mobile websites and most free (and some paid) mobile apps typically show us ads on the screen, as one of the prices for free content and services. But they're fairly subtle, which is why they don't work as well as ads in other venues. It's also the reason why there's the Fronto app for Android devices that puts full-screen ads where you can't avoid them: on the lock screen you need to get past to use your device. Apparently, 9 million users in Koreans have downloaded it and 2 million use it regularly. In west Africa, Samsung's local subsidiary is making Celltick's similar adware tool the start screen for Galaxy devices. The rest of us quake in fear that this will be a new feature in Android one day.

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Google, whose two primary businesses are selling ads and building elaborate profiles of you to target those ads, had previously upped the ante in pushing ads front and center. Android 4.4 KitKat's Google Now cards feature, which purports to target information based on your interests, is really a venue for placing ads in front of you based on your likes and location. Fortunately, you can disable this disguised advertising.

You can also disable Fronto, that South Korean app that puts allegedly targeted ads on your Android smartphone's lock screen. Assuming you install it in the first place, that is -- which the company thinks you will, because you can't shop till you drop if you don't know what to shop for. Here's the Fronto pitch with my real-English translations in brackets, which shows the mentality we're up against:

Research shows that mobile device users look at their phones more than 100 times a day, so Fronto is making all this time worthwhile [to advertisers, that is]. ...

What's interesting to consumers about Fronto is that with the popularity in native ads [translation: ads disguised as content] and decline of Groupon-type coupons and other daily deal sites, it has truly demonstrated the limitation of the business model -- people are busy and distracted and are increasingly unlikely to respond to daily deal emails that are not immediately relevant to their interests. Lock screen apps offering curated content [translation: targeted ads] are a better overall fit for what people want now because they present offers upfront, before the user even has logged into their phone, and because the deals can be curated/sorted/targeted based on the user's specific interests. Several trends are converging to show the potential of lock screen apps for conveying information and engaging with users sooner, instead of competing for attention among dozens of rarely opened apps on the typical mobile device.

Fronto enables Android users to earn money by engaging with ads, deals, and relevant articles [translation: ads disguised as content] in their lock screen, and its proprietary lock screen technology is an effective vehicle for advertisers to deliver full-screen content to mobile users.

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