The “free app” distribution model has been extremely popular with end users and developers. Developers use mobile ads to generate revenue and cover the cost of developing these free apps. Although the apps are ostensibly free, they in fact do come with hidden costs. Our study of 21 real world Android apps shows that the use of ads leads to mobile apps that consume significantly more network data, have increased energy consumption, and require repeated changes to ad related code. We also found that complaints about these hidden costs are significant and can impact the ratings given to an app. Our results provide actionable information and guidance to software developers in weighing the tradeoffs of incorporating ads into their mobile apps.
Mei Nagappan is an Assistant professor at the Software Engineering Department of Rochester Institute of Technology. His broad research interests include deriving solutions for software system stakeholders and using large-scale software engineering data to address the concerns of software developers, software operators, build engineers, and project managers. More specifically he focuses on mining mobile app data to provide the various stakeholders of mobile apps with actionable recommendations. Nagappan has a PhD in computer science from North Carolina State University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.