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Android Businesses The Almighty Buck

HTC Keyboard Ads Likely an Error, But Damage is Already Done (androidcentral.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: Ads in the stock keyboard app on a flagship smartphone added quietly via an app update, which then asks you to pay to remove them. You'd be hard pressed to come up with a more comically villainous thing for a phone manufacturer, or app developer, to pull on its users. Yet that's what's been happening to some HTC phone owners over the past day. HTC 10 owners seem to be worst affected (we're not seeing it on the newer U11 for what it's worth), with the ad bar taking up a good chunk of screen real estate. There's understandable outrage among HTC owners whose phones have started coughing up ads every time they open the keyboard. The consensus, obviously, is that this is not an OK place for ads to be appearing. In a statement, HTC said it was an error, and a fix is underway.
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HTC Keyboard Ads Likely an Error, But Damage is Already Done

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2017 @10:53AM (#54825493)

    You'd be hard pressed to come up with a more comically villainous thing for a phone manufacturer, or app developer, to pull on its users.

    Systemd.

  • I want my $40 back (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @10:54AM (#54825505)
    ...said every HTC phone owner, ever.
    • Where did you find it so cheap? The HTC 10 costs 550 EUR here.

    • I used to love HTC phones back in the day, starting with the good old Wallaby, but HD2 was the last one I've bought.

    • ...but you will never get a dime from me to remove ads.

      I decided to stop buying HTC when they completely refused to unlock the device. I likewise absolutely refuse to run their (poor quality) stock, and we all see the consequences of their OTAs/updates.

      Sunshine appears to do quite the business with HTC.

  • Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @10:56AM (#54825523) Homepage Journal

    It's way too early in the morning for me to exert this much brainpower trying to decipher such a poorly worded summary.

    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

      by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:02AM (#54825559) Homepage

      It's way too early in the morning for me to exert this much brainpower trying to decipher such a poorly worded summary.

      The summary. Posted to slashdot's front page. Added quietly by an admin. Which then asks for your time to parse it. You'd be hard pressed to come up with a more comically villainous thing for a news site, or an admin, to pull on its users.

    • Re:Summary (Score:5, Funny)

      by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:02AM (#54825561) Homepage
      If you imagine it is being read by William Shatner it makes complete sense.
    • Someone tried to monetize every key click with intrusive ads. A brilliant idea poorly executed. Better luck next time.*

      * Note: I'm only half-way through my skinny vanilla latte for this morning. Someone else might have a better interpretation.

    • Re:Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:06AM (#54825595) Journal
      Agreed. The first sentence is not actually a sentence by the usual rules (such as they are) that govern English. Where is the verb in that sentence? The second sentence is not much better - here the verb is constructed in the passive voice. The third sentence is some sort of dependent clause that has no business trying to stand on its own as a sentence.

      If all of this is so dastardly and important, don't make us work so damn hard to figure it out!
    • Agreed. I had to read the first few "sentences" multiple times before I got the gist of it.

        This is one of the most poorly written summaries I have seen here, and that's setting the bar pretty low. I am not much for grammar flames, but the point of communications is to communicate, and this isn't accomplishing the goal.

    • It's way too early in the morning for me to exert this much brainpower trying to decipher such a poorly worded summary.

      Yes, verbs would have been nice. Usually, they are considered "required" in an English sentence.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Yes, verbs would have been nice. Usually, they are considered "required" in an English sentence.

        Yeah, right.

      • Yes, verbs would have been nice. Usually, they are considered "required" in an English sentence.

        Nonsense.

        • Yes, verbs would have been nice. Usually, they are considered "required" in an English sentence.

          Nonsense.

          Usually. Not always.

          • Yes, verbs would have been nice. Usually, they are considered "required" in an English sentence.

            Nonsense.

            Usually. Not always.

            Bravo!

  • An error? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2017 @10:58AM (#54825543)

    It's not like you can just 'accidentally' code the framework which would support the ads to be played in the first place.

    • by Dracos ( 107777 )

      Exactly. This decision was made high up and rammed through with no user testing.

    • Nah but what you can do is farm out your keyboard to some third party (probably involving paying them a whole bunch of money) then leave it to that company to have a 'server hiccup' that displays ads to your customers. But I suppose that's what you get for farming out your fundamentals to third parties.
    • I can think of two ways. Way one: you contract out the development to a company that has a paid version and an ad-supported version. They accidentally give you the ad-supported apk to push to your customers instead of the paid one. Way two: you have an internal project to see if you can push down the up-front cost of a phone by pushing ads in various places (as the Kindle Fire does on the lock screen) and using that to subsidise the cost. You have the same people working on it as the normal system and o
  • Error my ass! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evanh ( 627108 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:00AM (#54825549)

    "HTC said it was an error, and a fix is underway" - With bullshit lines like that spewing forth every other day, is it any wonder people are fed up with the status quo?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by rickb928 ( 945187 )

      What's the BS? That it was a mistake? Plainly it was, despite the knee-jerk responses of the butthurt hordes. The BS is that it was let out without a decent check by HTC - the app is apparently a TouchPal app, which is where the mistake probably occurred. Blame HTC for not testing prior to release, or TouchPal(?) for similarly not debranding properly.

      And Android users, those free apps aren't 'free'. Ads are the price you pay. Even paid apps monetize further with ads, I know, so choose between the truly mini

      • Re:Error my ass! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:27AM (#54825781)

        It seems more likely to me that HTC made a mistake in underestimating the pushback than in releasing the software.

        I am aware of where Android app revenue comes from. I also believe that basic functionality should not require ads without a prior agreement, and that ads should appear only in the apps that place them. The Android apps I use tend not to push ads on me, since I either pay for them or are conveniences for services I do pay for (like the Kindle app).

      • Easy fix: root and AdAway... easypeasy.. No more ads..

      • TouchPal keyboard is freeware in the Play Store, but throws ads up on your phone unless you pay within the app. There are also versions there like "Touchpal for HTC" which are sponsored by HTC... apparently the TouchPal people updated the HTC version on the Play Store to display ads and the phones dutifully downloaded and installed the update.

        My phone (Axon 7) came with TouchPal stock, but I disabled it and intalled gboard because TouchPal seems none too accurate. Just checked and it still doesn't show ads,

    • > > "HTC said it was an error, and a fix is underway"

      > With bullshit lines like that spewing forth every other day, is it any wonder people are fed up with the status quo?

      What HTC really meant was: . . . a fix is underway . . . but in the meantime, you can pay us to get rid of the ads.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      Sure it was an error. They implemented ads in their keyboard and they had a switch to turn it on. So exactly what was the error? Switching it on at that point in time? Not realizing that their users would give two shits? Being out-innovated at every turn by Samsung? You think anyone involved in the decision process of "Hey let's put ads in the keyboard!" got fired? I guess their error was that they decided to be a bunch of underhanded twats and then lying about it when they got called out. Fortunately I won
  • "It was an error" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NoZart ( 961808 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:01AM (#54825551)

    Sure. Implementing all the code to display ads within the keyboard app just happened because the cat ran over the keyboard.
    Oh, you mean it was an error that this crap got rolled out? Thanks for informing me about how the future looks like for HTC customers, then.

    I used to love HTC products, now i avoid them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Implementing all the code to display ads within the keyboard app just happened because the cat ran over the keyboard.

      Apaprently it's not HTC's app, it's a third-party keyboard which has ads but can get a paid upgrade to ad-free. HTC was supposed to have bundled a paid-up version with each handset, and claim a server-end error failed to recognise that the handsets were paid-up so it served them ads.

      Still dubious, but a more believable excuse than "we accidentally wrote a bunch of fully functional code and

      • There is something more than a little creepy about a keyboard app talking to a server 'to check things'.

        It just gives me the willies. Brave New World, indeed.

        • hehe Guess you don't know about Microsoft's latest turd_in_the_punchbowl, called Windows 10 ... or as I call it, Windows NSA Edition....

      • Then its HTC's problem. Whether or not their keyboard was developed in-house is exactly the kind of BS that their customers shouldn't have to deal with, in exchange for them paying HTC lots of money. That's how these things traditionally work in business.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you read the article (I know, I know) it turns out that HTC outsourced their keyboard to a third party company. That third party company also sells the keyboard software directly on the Google Play store, and has a trial version that's ad supported. Apparently what happened is that somehow the special HTC-only version was accidentally flagged as the trial version.

      So that's why the ad support was there (it was always there, because it was for the Google Play version), and that's how the error happened (th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Clearly some overworked dev meant to use add() rather than ad() in the calculator section of the keyboard. Simple mistake. Happens all the time.

  • An error (Score:5, Insightful)

    by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:03AM (#54825573) Journal

    HTC said it was an error, and a fix is underway

    Ads don't magically appear by dint of the universe being against us (although, the universe is against us). In order for those ads to appear, some poor developer had to be given the task of adding that feature. Then some other poor fools had to test it and qualify it across multiple hardware platforms. Then it had to get bundled into the software update, and then pushed out to users.

    My point is, there were many, many very intentional acts required for this to occur, and almost none of which could conceivably have been an accident or "error". This ass-hattery must be roundly called out and ridiculed. Probably there isn't any legal action indicated, but it might be nice for someone to try.

    • Re:An error (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:09AM (#54825625)

      It was intentional, the error was they weren't expecting an outrage...

    • by c ( 8461 )

      In order for those ads to appear, some poor developer had to be given the task of adding that feature.

      I suspect that HTC is just rebranding a third-party keyboard app which has an ad-supported version on some app store (possibly even the Play store) and uses the same code base across versions. I don't think the stock Android keyboard is that horrible, but I'm sure HTC has their reasons for not using it. So the dev probably just left the flag on and never noticed the glitch.

      Then some other poor fools had to

      • by orlanz ( 882574 )

        That's so much worse! That's shows how crap their release process is. Even internal dev testing of the release should have caught that. Can you imagine the number of bugs that could be released from such a process. It would be as bad as a zero day exploit.

        My guess is that it was intentional. Some PHB thought up the idea of an additional revenue stream at the last minute and the yesmen couldn't get giddy enough on it. Then they bypassed any sane QA/UAT testing to meet the release date. The mistake was

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There was a better summary of things over on Ars Technica. Basically HTC seems to be using a third party keyboard as the default. HTC device owners should be getting the "paid" version without ads, but somehow or another (I'll refrain from speculating on intent) the "ad supported" mode was triggered.

    • Re:An error (Score:5, Informative)

      by pop ebp ( 2314184 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @12:11PM (#54826165)
      I believe it was an error. Although HTC does deserve part of the blame.
      You see, the "stock keyboard" was actually a third-party app, which is ad-supported by default.
      The HTC version is supposed to be a special ad-free version, but somehow during the latest update the app developers pushed the ad-supported version to HTC devices as well.

      If anything, this demonstrates the dangers of bundling apps that you don't directly control.
      And who's to say the ad-free version doesn't still track the user or collect personal information? If it wants it could collect all your passwords too!
      It was really poor judgement on HTC's part to use such an app for a sensitive component like the stock keyboard.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      It was an error in judgement on the part of HTC, not a technical error.

      Today only Apple and Samsung and Google and MS trailing far behind, off computer consumer sales. This means that other firms have to be creative in monetizing the product.

      This is no different from years back when only Apple and MS made money off PC sales. Most people who bought a MS loaded PC never really knew what they were going to get. OEM were trying to meet a price point, so you might have a fast CPU with a FSB so slow that th

  • "In error" (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:13AM (#54825649)

    Oops, my finger slipped and accidentally all this code to display ads in a rectangular bounding box and get ads from ad servers and a working payment system that allows removing them!

    • Damn, those RADs really get out of hand with what they dump automatically into your apps...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly this. This was planned and put in there. Not by any accident at all.

      You have to wonder what other treasures HTC have stuck into unremovable apps on their phones. Next up, a homeland/russian/chinese/korean/popular wannabe tracking module, configured just for your country for your telecoms provider or national security vendor or choice!

    • Agreed, as in a greed. However it "could" be an accident as in it was all coded up and not meant to actually be implemented yet. Then it could be as simple as uncommenting a single line or a single number.
    • And don't make me use the other nine fingers, if you know what's good for you!
  • Consumers are idiots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Monday July 17, 2017 @11:18AM (#54825689) Journal

    Any company that pulls this type of crap should quickly dive into bankruptcy as it loses customers*

    The reality is that most customers won't care.

    * Note: this was deliberate. As others have pointed out, you don't accidentally put ads into an app. Also, why wasn't it pulled immediately? This was a deliberate attempt to test the reaction to ads in the keyboard app.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am soon to be in the market for a new phone and HTC is now off my list of options, and very probably permanently on my $hitlist.

      to be on my$list means i will avoid their products wherever reasonably possible. It's exceptionally hard to get off my $list, as bad behavior should not be 'oopsies''d away.

    • While I have no doubt the ad code is deliberate in the adverts, I highly doubt it was deliberately targeted at HTC phone owners. Why the hell would you use the keyboard app to display apps when you control the full code to the entire OS?

      More likely this was to enable free ad supported versions of HTC's keyboard to be used on other phones (TouchPal keyboard is quite a popular app on the Play Store) and accidentally pushed to HTC phone users as well.

      It makes no sense to add these "features" into an easily rep

    • by aergern ( 127031 )

      It was a mistake. Get over it. It's easy to fix and really didn't do anything but cause folks like you to grab your pitchforks and torches. I'll bet you don't even own an HTC. sheesh.

  • The subject says most of what I want to say. Consumer level computing is reaching a very sad state of affairs. It's infested with advertising, user spying, walled gardens, artificial limitations and in general, user-hostile "features".
    The iPhone popularized the walled garden concept where the manufacturer decides what you can and can't do with your device by limiting what software you're allowed to run. Then Google designed Android to be a vehicle for pushing their services and spying the masses. Then Micr
  • Ads are not OK anywhere. Some places are worse than others, but they are never OK. Advertisements chip away at a civil society. They are a destructive force. Our goal should be to eliminate them from the world.

  • OMG! The sky is falling! HTC is f***ed! We can never trust them again to fix a minor mistake! It destroys this perfectly awesome phone. I'm crushed.

  • My wife is Taiwanese... so Taiwan econ stuff actually somewhat resonates with me. HTC is going down the tubes., Now, you have a vicious cycle... losing money, so lets do desperate stuff, that alienates more people, so we get more desperate...

    Bye Bye htc, sadly.

  • Huawei Y3 also had the default keyboard app showing ads after a few weeks of usage. I had to uninstall the keyboard app to get rid of this nuisance.

  • Just a note, I have the U11 and started seeing the ads. At first I thought it was the Verizon Message+ app, so I switched the the default HTC one and they still showed up. I couldn't believe they'd make their default keyboard Ad-Ware. The first story I read about this was that the 3rd party vendor made the mistake (They have an adware version of this keyboard and accidentally turned on the ads when they pushed out the update for HTC). It's a pretty nice keyboard, but I had the full Swype version to fall ba
  • the first against the wall will be the Sir^h^h^h HTC martketing department.
  • ...a framework for transmitting and displaying ads above the HTC keyboard. My finger must have slipped. Repeatedly. In just the right way. Thousands of times. And then I accidentally compiled and tested the code.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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