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Verizon Pitched Preloading ‘Bloatware’ Apps for a Fee

August 17, 2016, 6:11 PM UTC
A Verizon Communications Inc. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
A pedestrian checks his mobile phone while walking past a Verizon Wireless store in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Verizon Communications Inc. is scheduled to release earnings data on April 21. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Verizon Communications pitched advertisers on a new service that would let them pay to preload branded apps onto some of the smartphones that the carrier sells, according to a report on Wednesday.

The apps would appear on the home screens of Verizon-sold Android smartphones when customers activated the new phones for the first time, the publication Ad Age reported, citing anonymous sources. Carriers and phone makers have run into controversy by adding pre-installed apps that customers did not request, often referred to derisively as bloatware or crapware. Customers don’t like having their home screens filled with apps they didn’t request, which in some cases can’t be easily removed.

Apple prohibits carriers from unilaterally adding most apps to new iPhones, so Verizon’s proposed app install service did not include iPhones.

Ad Age said it was “unclear” whether any advertisers had actually agreed to try Verizon’s proposed service, which was reportedly charging $1 to $2 for every app installed. Verizon sold almost 8 million new phones in the second quarter.

Verizon (VZ) declined to comment.

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The telecom giant is looking for new sources of revenue growth as its traditional markets slow. Wireless revenue shrunk 4% last quarter, while sales in the old-fashioned telephone business have been declining for many years. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam has said that lifting advertising revenue is one part of his diversification strategy, and the company agreed to pay $4.8 billion for ad-supported web site Yahoo last month.

Under the Verizon pre-install pitch, advertisers would pay just to have apps installed, whether phone buyers ever used them or not.

Google’s Nexus line of Android phones, which it sells directly via its web site, come without carrier added apps pre-installed but still includes many Google apps. Apple, which also blocks carrier apps, has said its upcoming iOS software upgrade will allow customers to hide some of Apple’s own apps that currently can’t be removed.