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An iPhone with ads isn’t an iPhone: Why ads will ruin the “premium” Apple experience

Green iPhone 13 and Alpine Green iPhone 13 Pro held in hand in front of Snow White fountain at Disneyland, CA
(Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

When Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone, it wasn’t just a revolutionary 3-in-1 device, as he described it. The iPhone set the gold standard for a cellular phone that wasn’t riddled with bloatware that was pre-installed by carriers, which was common at the time. The iPhone was always a “premium” experience and never tainted with ads. It set a new bar, and people flocked to it. Even Google now makes its own line of phones that it sells directly, similar to Apple, and they’re free of unnecessary cruft from carriers.

However, it appears that times are changing. Though Apple has been king in overall marketing to sell its hardware (think of the old iPod ads that were literally everywhere), it appears that the company is shifting gears toward making a viable platform for selling ads to others. In one of Mark Gurman’s recent Power On newsletters, he claims that Apple has begun working on adding search ads to Apple Maps, which may arrive as early as next year. Unlike traditional banner ads that you may see all over the web, these would be paid search results, similar to how the App Store displays ads when you search for apps. According to Gurman, Apple is also considering injecting ads into the “Today” tab on the App Store, along with the possibility of a “You May Also Like” section at the end of an app listing. There are also ads in Apple News and even the default Stocks app that comes built into your iPhone.

This is worrisome, because I, along with many others, pay the “Apple tax” to not be bombarded with ads. Hearing this definitely makes me worry about the future of Apple — premium products that will soon be marred by ads, ads, and more ads.

We pay the "Apple tax" for a reason

iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 display side by side

(Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

When someone thinks of an Apple product, the first thing that may pop into their head is the word “premium.” Apple not only manufactures all of its hardware products but also controls the OS that goes on those devices as well. This means both the hardware and software are controlled by Apple alone, and thus all apps that come with it are first-party. So, unlike those cheap Android devices that may come pre-installed with carrier bloatware, you will never find pre-installed third-party apps on an iPhone, even if you purchase from a carrier. This has been the case since the original iPhone, which revolutionized the cellular phone industry, and continues to be the case to this day.

While you won’t find third-party ads and bloatware installed on your new iPhone 14, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see ads from Apple, apparently. According to recent reports, Apple was looking for a new senior manager for its ads platforms business, though it’s not clear what this particular ad platform would be for. However, according to Mark Gurman in a recent Power On newsletter, Apple may be adding ads to Apple Maps as soon as next year.

Apple may be adding ads to Apple Maps as soon as next year.

Apple is not a stranger to ads. If you search the App Store, you’ll find paid ad spots showing up at the top of your search results. These ads are basically spots that are paid for by developers to try and garner more attention to their particular app. The plan for Apple Maps to get ads would also be paid search results, not banner ads like you see on the web. So if you search for “burgers” or “fries,” you may get results like popular fast food chains. This is also how it already works on many other similar maps apps, such as Yelp, Google Maps, and Waze.

While ads don’t exist in Apple Maps yet, I’m not looking forward to the day they do. I purchase Apple products for a reason, and that’s because I don’t like seeing advertisements all over the place. Apple has also touted a “privacy first” stance for the past several years, more so than its competitors, and putting more emphasis on ads somewhat contradicts that.

Why pay the infamous “Apple tax” if it’s just going to have ads all over the native, built-in apps?

I know plenty of people who buy Apple products because it’s supposed to be premium, and thus no ads. In fact, it’s one of my reasons, and there would definitely be less of a reason to pay the infamous “Apple tax” if it’s just going to have ads all over the native, built-in apps. In fact, even if you are a subscriber to Apple’s News+, you still see ads in the current news feed, which I find gross. It’s already bad enough in News, but Apple is thinking about adding it to my Maps? Please, no.

Putting more ads in Apple apps diminishes the experience

I’ve been using iPhones since the original, and I’ve learned that the best iPhone experience is one without ads. It’s already bad enough that pretty much most apps and games on the App Store are no longer premium, paid downloads but rather freemium, pay-to-win titles or subscription-only services, and the App Store “curation” itself feels like a giant ad. And though I mostly get my news just from scrolling through my social networks, I have Apple One Premier, so I basically pay for News+, and it bothers me that ads are still shown in the regular feed. I mean, isn’t the point of paying for something to not have ads?

Apple has always had “premium” associated with it, whether that’s the hardware or the software. But with this news, it feels like Apple is losing its way and just trying to become Google. I mean, I expect ads and such with Google, as that is one of its primary businesses besides search, but Apple? Absolutely not. I buy Apple products for the high-end designs and seamless software and integration with each other, not to be flooded with ads in all of the built-in apps (Stocks is another example).

If Apple just throws ads into all of its native apps, what makes it different than an Android phone? Might as well just jump ship and have more customization options at that point.

Just kidding. I probably will still buy Apple products, especially a new iPhone, but it’s just a little depressing that no matter where we go or what we use, we can’t escape the world of ads and marketing.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.