Apple iOS ad blockers grow slowly in U.S. even as global ad blocking jumps 90 percent

Last September, much ado was made about a feature in Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS 9 which made it possible to build and install ad blocking apps on Apple devices -- which would keep ads from showing up within the Safari browser or in apps' "webview" component. However, their impact appears to be negligible: over a seven-month period, only 4.5 million iOS ad blocking apps have been downloaded globally, a new PageFair study reports, and just 1.9 million of those downloads were in the United States.

Furthermore, although ad blocking on all smartphone types -- iOS and Android -- rose 90 percent worldwide in 2015, that trend remained moderate in the U.S., where just 2.2 percent of all smartphone owners used ad blockers as of March 2016.

China and India have the highest numbers of consumers using ad blockers – or specifically, ad-blocking browsers, the most popular type of blocking software. About 159 million users in China and 122 million in India are blocking browser ads on their smartphones, trailed by Indonesia with 38 million. The U.S. sits about the middle of the list, with 2.3 million users employing ad-blocking browsers.

Some in-app ad blocking software is also now available, PageFair noted, with most developed to block third-party ads in specific apps like Spotify, Apple News or CNN. Such software is not allowed on the Google Play store, but VPN-based apps are getting around those rules, the report said. Around 738,000 in-app ad blockers were downloaded worldwide in Q1 2016 alone.

PageFair Chief Executive Sean Blanchfield told The New York Times that the popularity of ad blocking software in Asia was surprising, because western countries often don't think about how mobile is used in developing nations. But in the case of ad blockers, perhaps tech companies should. "It's only a matter of time until mobile ad blocking comes to the West," Blanchfield said.

But is that really a concern? The NYT noted that users in countries like India are much more likely to use their mobile devices as primary means of accessing the internet, making it important for users to conserve data. Users in Western countries are increasingly accessing websites and online video on their smartphones, but not necessarily chewing through their data plans to do so -- at least, not yet.

For more:
- download the report
- see this NYT article (sub. req.)

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