In the latest chapter of Yahoo’s fall from grace, the once-prominent internet company has been relegated to the role of bloatware on millions of Android phones, thanks to a new advertising agreement between Verizon and Samsung.
According to Reuters, the deal will load up Verizon Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ devices with a number of useless apps, including Yahoo Sports; Yahoo Finance; Go90, a mobile video service that you are almost certainly not using; and Oath Newsroom, a news curation app that surfaces headlines from across the web, but primarily from Yahoo News and HuffPost, both of which are owned by Verizon.
As part of the deal, Oath will become the “premiere content partner” for Bixby, Samsung’s first-party virtual assistant. If that doesn’t sound like enough stuff that you don’t want on your phone, Samsung and Oath will also allow advertisers to place “native ads”—ads disguised as actual content—smack dab in the middle of the news feed. The companies will split the revenue from the deal, pocketing some cash every time you accidentally tap an ad while scrolling.
“This gets ads one step closer to being direct to consumer,” Oath CEO Tim Armstrong told Reuters, apparently completely misunderstanding or simply not caring about what consumers want. “You can’t be more direct than being on the mobile phone home screen and app environment.”
From the second Verizon gobbled up AOL, Yahoo, and the many assets that came with those beleaguered brands, this type of deal became an inevitability. By scooping up the former internet giants for $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion respectively, Verizon turned itself into a media conglomerate and a major player in the world of advertising, on top of the largest mobile carrier in the United States. Now the monster rearing all of its ugly heads.
The arrangement between Verizon and Samsung gets a little incestuous, inserting Verizon-owned apps and services that contain Verizon-sold advertisements onto devices that are routinely among the most popular on Verizon’s own network. An article from Verizon’s site shows that it names two Samsung devices as the “best Android phones” offered through the carrier, and now the company’s retail shops across the country will have even more motivation to push the devices onto consumers looking for a new phone.
There isn’t anything wrong, per se, with this arrangement between Samsung and Verizon. It doesn’t seem to be a net neutrality violation, like when Verizon decided not to count video streaming through its go90 app against a person’s data cap, nor is it quite in the realm of an antitrust issue, like when Google got dinged for its practice of loading up Android devices with its own apps and services. But it definitely feels a little too cozy for comfort.
All bloatware sucks and Samsung has been a particularly egregious offender in the past, loading up phones with so much unnecessary bullshit that it triggered a lawsuit from the Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission. Making it all the worse is the fact that Verizon stands to make some extra cash by pushing the Samsung devices pumped full of its own content and ads. It’s one thing to offer the ad-infused experience to subsidize the cost of a phone. It seems pretty shady to force all of that revenue-generating garbage onto a device you’re already paying hundreds of dollars for.
Update, May 2, 9:50pm: This post has been updated to clarify that Verizon is only installing the bloatware on Samsung devices sold through Verizon, not on other carriers.