We all have them… apps installed on our phones that are ad-supported. Ads are a fundamental part of the Google ecosystem, and many Android developers have found they are able to make some money by including ads in their apps and giving the app away for free. It’s a win-win system. Or is it?
Researchers from Purdue University, working with Microsoft, have discovered that potentially up to 75% of an app’s battery drain is caused by not the app itself, but rather the ad-serving processes the app uses. The research team developed an energy profiler they named EProf, which can measure the battery use of not only the app, but every thread the app spawns. The team then tested five Android apps, including Angry Birds, FreeChess, and the New York Times. All testing was done on a Nexus One running Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
Lead researcher Abhinav Pathak measured energy usage for one level of Angry Birds and found that the game itself only accounted for about 30% of the total battery drain. The remaining 70% was divided between serving up advertising and uploading user data. The user data is only uploaded once, however the ads are displayed throughout the game, draining the battery continually. It’s no wonder companies like NVIDIA are working on more efficient and lower power chips.
Similar results occurred with the other apps. Interestingly, the native browser as well as the New York Times app spent around 15% of their battery usage on user tracking processes.
The research team was not trying to expose a specific app for using too much juice. Their intention was to help developers and advertisers make their processes more efficient by providing the EProf software as an open-source tool.
So does this study make anyone think about paying for the ad-free version of apps? A buck or two seems like a reasonable price for keeping my battery in check.