01
Nov
phone ico

Google is finally paying attention to the phone app in Android 4.4 by adding smart organization of contacts, enhanced search, and a new card-based UI. However, there might be something more dastardly hiding in the dialer code. Google might be preparing to roll out ads of some sort to the Android dialer.

dial-pad

The strings from the dialer APK clearly refer to advertisements, but it's not clear how (or if) they will be implemented.

<string name="enable_disable_advertisements">Advertisements</string>
<string name="advertisements_enable">Advertisements enabled</string>
<string name="advertisements_disable">Advertisements disabled</string>

It might be a simple text ad like we're already used to seeing in Google Maps, but it probably has something to do with the new search box with local business integration. Opening the search could pull up a relevant ad within the results, for example.

If this sounds like a nightmare hell ride to you, don't stress. The advertisements_disable string seems to indicate the ads can be turned off. We'll know more once the device starts showing up in larger numbers.

Update: The Google KitKat site lists the new dialer as supporting local business searches:

You can also search for nearby places and businesses, your contacts, or people in your Google Apps domain.

That would be a fitting place to insert contextual ads.

Update #2 by Artem: Apparently, the code above has been appearing and disappearing in the Phone/Dialer apps for a number of years now (thanks, Zhuowei, for pointing this out). However, we have found more ad-related code that wasn't present before. This code points to AdMob, which is a Google-owned advertising network specifically aimed at mobile applications. Here is the code:

<attr name="adSize" format="string" />
<attr name="adUnitId" format="string" />

The same AdMob-related code is now present in Gmail, Google Play Services, Videos, and the new combined Search/Launcher, but not other Android 4.4. apps, which seems to support our updated theory. Of course, not everything found in APK teardowns ends up happening - some things are misinterpreted, some never materialize because of changed plans, and it's important to remember that nothing is 100%.

Update #3 by Artem: A Google representative reached out to clarify that the first code segment is indeed old and has been around, which we've acknowledged above. Google is also not working on bringing ads to the Dialer, according to the rep. Finally, we were promised a response about the second code fragment when it gets clarified by the team responsible for it.

[Ron Amadeo Google+]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Trevor Kinsie

    It will probably only show up if you search, things will get promoted through ads.

  • Santeri

    Well, this ain't too good. Hope Google implements those ads well and without unnecessary distractions for the users.

    • Scott

      Or they just don't do it.

  • Christopher Hatch

    I honestly hope not! Throwing ads in the dialer is a move in the wrong direction. Is Android still an OS or a giant ad machine?

    • Adam Truelove

      Unfortunately, it's both.

      • Christopher Hatch

        You are right, ads do help support Google, but honestly the last thing I want to see is an ad for X when I go to call my wife or my daughter. Just seems to be an odd place for and ad.

        • UtopiaNH

          I can almost guarentee it won't work that way.

        • Zak Taccardi

          it would never work that way.

        • http://www.rebelwithoutaclue.com/ Rebel without a Clue

          Perhaps you will see an ad for tampons if you dial them ;)

          • Irinel Loghin

            Or condoms under your wife's contact pic...

          • http://wishu-blog.net/ Marco (Wishu) Kaiser

            Or under the daughter’s »Don’t make the mistake twice!« SCNR

    • TheBigGreenBot

      It's an OS, a free one at that which gets is revenue from OEM deals and ads.

      Appreciate what they are doing for you, remember -- You could always be using Apple products.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You can turn them off if you don't like them, as per the article. And let's not knock it till we see what it is.

    • Tills13

      Relax, bud. They're ads, not guns.

    • David Thoren

      Dialer != OS. You can get alternate dialers.

      • Roh_Mish

        But it's core functionality. And most dialers (i tried them on my old Samsung phones, not yet on my nexus) drops you into the os dialer at last.

    • Jase Mase

      Anything you use from Google can be expected to be an Ad machine. That's just how it works.

  • Fitzelgard Allan Gerard

    What if you had been searching for lets say "Dog Daycare" and you had been searching for contact details, I have a hunch that there is a separate "Recently Searched" that will show up in the dialer with contact details and such. Just speculating.

    I highly doubt that might be it. Imagine if you searched areas near strip clubs and it would suggest "hookers nearby", I hope you have enough for marriage counselling

  • navjot

    If you search for pizza, it could display "3 people from your circles recommend _____'s Pizza" which doesn't sound bad at all. People just tend to freak out when they hear 'ADS'.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

      Beat me to it by seconds.

      • letsplaaay

        two minutes

        • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

          Well the site didn't refresh until I posted mine. Anyway 120 seconds is still a number of seconds :-P

    • http://ashutoshmishra.org/ Ashutosh Mishra

      who searches for pizza in a dialer...

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Well, nobody until they can get meaningful results out of it or have a bunch of pizza places bookmarked. It does make sense, doesn't it? You want to call a pizza place to order pizza, you go to the dialer, and voila - pizza places.

        • http://ashutoshmishra.org/ Ashutosh Mishra

          thou speaketh words of wisdom, Artemius.

        • Fifth313ment

          I agree but the option to disable should be a prerequisite. Some people such as my self think we pay enough for our phones and service and don't want to give anything else to these companies. But everyone has a different opinion.

          5th

          • David Thoren

            And the presence of "Advertisements disabled" didn't indicate that we would be able to disable them?

        • tekfr33kn

          I would hope that if this turns out to be the case, that they disable to the feature by default (opt-in, not opt-out). That could turn into a slippery slope going down the road otherwise.

        • Phill_S

          Agree with Artem that this only doesnt happen now because people cant.

          I moved in September and the first thing I did was go to Google Maps not just to look up where the local supermarkets, cinema etc are but to find takeaways that were highly ranked. Given they already have this data in one of their related services bringing it from Maps to the dialer is perfectly logical and would make more people realise they can do this - which in turn will get more reviews from users and so the data will increase in value.

        • Eduardo

          That would be awesome, now what I want to know is where's the APK?!! :-)

        • Hoggles

          Nope...simply search for pizza in your browser or Goog search and hit the "call" button. That feature has been there for years & its very easy & noninvasive. ADs in the dialer is a deal breaker.

        • hihat

          What if it's for an eventual free/deeply discounted phone service Google is considering and the tradeoff is some ads in the dialer? That would probably be OK as well.

      • Harsha

        It was a reference example with some other app. Like I imagined it happening in Google Maps.

      • http://mwinter.in/ Yan Gabriel Minário

        "Search by contacts & nearby places"

      • jz100

        Probably due to a fanboy defending google over it. I guarantee you that the majority will be angry over it.

    • xspirits

      Because for anyone ADS mostly sounds like AIDS, and nobody want them.

      • velcro

        I learn something new today :D

      • Markus Beeks

        Jared from Subway has Aids

    • Franz

      Seriously. That's all I'm thinking it's going to be as well. I don't mind that at all.

    • veRdiKt

      Thank you Navjot.

  • beboo

    Ads every where :D

  • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

    I'm fine with say a Pizza place ad popping up if I'm looking for a pizza place or something but really I usually use Google maps for this kinda thing. I don't ever use the dialer for searching. The way the whole search via dialer is a bit odd to me.

    • Brandon Miller

      That's the point, right? We couldn't ever use the dialer for search before if I'm not mistaken. Just giving us another option.

      • jordanjay29

        Then what is the point of searching in maps? I look to maps to find places, I look to web searches to find websites, I look to my dialer to find phone numbers I have in my contact list. I haven't seen a good way to mix these together yet, so I'd much prefer them separate.

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    This is just too much... honestly, i don't mind ads in Search and Gmail but dailer? c'mon that's just as silly as it is stupid.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You haven't seen the implementation yet. How can you say it's stupid if you have no idea how it'll work? I can think of a variety of ways it will be beneficial and not stupid.

      • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

        Because ads are in no way beneficial to me in dailer, I only use it to call my friends/family or order a kebab, i don't look up numbers on my phone, ever.

        • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

          Then in have great news for you

          Advertisements disabled

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Aha! So you do order food. What if there's a better kebab place that your friends know about and is nearby that you have never heard of? And that place would show up when you searched for "kebab"?

          • Anu6is

            No dude...that's just too logical to ever happen. Ads can only be presented as spam. It's the only way they work
            /s

          • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

            i know where i live and what shops are nearby, i don't live in a humongous city.

          • http://www.rebelwithoutaclue.com/ Rebel without a Clue

            If I am in a big city and need to know a good restaurant, I ask the people who live there and walking near me anyway ;)

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            So then turn it off. The option will be there to do it.

  • NinoBr0wn

    Yuck.

  • jayray78

    Consider for a moment, that with the new "Caller ID" functions that a small line of text comes across when a business that calling you appears. Imagine if that text included coupons or specials for the business calling without you have to go search for them. I think this has the possibility of being something useful.

    • Crispin Swickard

      I am as well thinking its tied into the Caller ID function. Sounds scary at first, but it definitely has the potential for good as well.

    • Christopher Hatch

      I like this thought.... as long as you can opt in or opt out.

    • Hoggles

      Let me guess....you love Facebook? No thanks.... Not useful at all. Just invasive.

      • jayray78

        Um, you realize Google is an advertising company right?

  • trickytree1984

    Apk download?

    • Chahk Noir

      The Dialer/Contacts app probably doesn't work on 4.2.x/4.3.x, otherwise AP wouldn't hold the APK hostage. RIGHT?!

      • DontRelyOnHypocrits

        It's been plastered all over other sites. They don't have the only copy in existence.

    • CoreRooted

      There probably won't be one as it seems the dialer is integrated into the system now.

  • Bob G

    Is the People app still there?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It is in the 4.4 AOSP ROM I'm using (built by PA).

      • ddpacino

        Quick, how is that so far? Thinking about putting that on tonight when I get off. Gotta love these devs -- they're quick!

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          It's not bad, but I'm using it on a test device, so I don't really care how stable it is. A few background app crashes (Calendar, Search), but nothing major, and they haven't come back since, only happened once or twice.

          • drawkcaB

            Calendar and search crashing on ART or dalvik?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Dalvik. However, see this: https://plus.google.com/107979589566958860409/posts/6eZrEBD3H99. PA says they've sorted out most of the issues, and the Calendar one only happens on first boot (which I can confirm, though I got it twice, but it hasn't come back since).

    • http://seapip.com/ Thomas Gladdines

      You would need it to add contacts atleast otherwise there aren't any contacts to search for...

  • catfish

    Forget click through rate.
    Call through rate will be the new buzz for mobile advertisers.

  • Guest

    Why isn't this shipping information showing up in my Google Now?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Irrelevant comment is irrelevant.

  • kekkojoker90

    For me is a simply addition like sponsored result on top of our search.

  • Christopher Bement

    Anyone know if the dialer works on the Gnex?

    • trickytree1984

      4.4 isn't, so no it won't be

      • Christopher Bement

        You misunderstood my question. I wasn't asking if Google was releasing a dialer for the Gnex, I know they aren't supporting it for 4.4. That's been covered. I was asking if the Nexus 5 Phone and Contacts app works on the GNex as-is. Meaning, has anyone who has my phone installed the nexus 5 app and gotten it to work. I didn't realize I was being so vague, so I apologize.

        • trickytree1984

          Hope so. I want the apk for my n4. mind you my n5 just got shipped :-)

  • zhuowei

    Rumour smash: this string has been there since Donut, and is used to block/allow broadcast SMS.
    If you have a launcher that lets you create activity shortcuts, open com.android.phone/.CellBroadcastSms .
    No ads in your dialer. False alarm.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      There's no mention of "advertisement" anywhere in the 4.3 Dialer code.

      • zhuowei

        https://android.googlesource.com/platform/packages/apps/Phone/+/android-1.6_r1/res/values/strings.xml Line 577.
        It's in /system/app/Phone.apk on my Nexus 7 running stock 4.3 (JWR66Y): running strings then grep on it does turn up the strings "Advertisements", "Advertisements enabled", "Advertisements disabled".

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Weird, the 4.3 Phone.apk I was looking at didn't have these. Well, shit.

          Though, I must say, if there ever was the time for these to go in effect, it's after 4.4, where the Dialer is now searching places and businesses nearby.

          • naysayer

            No need to update the article to reflect the new findings?!

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            We're still working through them, but we're sticking to "ads are coming."

        • Rasmus Steinke

          this is android 1.6 sourcecode.. from 2007. you would have to prove it with actually up to date sources :)

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            It's in 2.3, 4.0, 4.3, it's been there all along after all.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      The string is most definitely not in the jelly bean dialer.

      the CellBroadcastSms thing just crashes for me.

      What is an SMS ad anyway? Why would google include code for that?

      • zhuowei

        https://android.googlesource.com/platform/packages/apps/Phone/+/android-1.6_r1/res/values/strings.xml Line 577.
        I need a Phone APK to see if this actually is there - will check with my Gingerbread emulator when I get home.
        CellBroadcastSms also crashed for me, but that may be because I am on a Nexus 7.

        • zhuowei

          Sorry, line 503 (577 was the line number for Gingerbread)

      • zhuowei

        It's in /system/app/Phone.apk on my Nexus 7 running stock 4.3 (JWR66Y):
        running strings then grep on it does turn up the strings
        "Advertisements", "Advertisements enabled", "Advertisements disabled".

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

          Hmm, well that's different.
          Do you have and in /res/values/attrs.xml?

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Ron and I have talked this over, and it looks like there are more ad strings that weren't present before, even in the 4.3 Phone.apk from the N7 that you referenced.

          Specifically:

          According to Ron, these ad strings only appear in things like Gmail and Play Services, but not in other apps.

          This seems to still point to ads in the Phone app, though I still think they're going to be more like featured listings.

          • zhuowei

            AdMob seems to be embedded in the Google Play Services library (i.e. the part that everyone has to include in their APKs). Get the latest update of the Play Services library and see. In its res/values/ folder there is an ads_attrs.xml file, which contains those lines.

            I'll keep on looking.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Yeah, it's in Play Services now, Gmail, and a few others, but by far not in all of them. Only the minority.

  • jz100

    Ads? I sure hope not. Not everyone has an unlimited plan.

  • Cory Hanes

    The dial-er is being updated with KitKat official release, correct? There is not currently an apk for this?

  • mjku

    Ads in the dialer would be a move that would piss off pretty much every single KitKat phone owner. DON'T DO IT, GOOGLE!

  • aritra

    it will be great if there will be two options.. show ads and hide ads.. if you choose show ads.. Google will add money to play store account.. so you can buy applications etc

  • NateCress

    Can one install the KitKat dialer apk?

    • CoreRooted

      Seems that the dialer is bundled in the system, so probably not. That's the current consensus on XDA at least.

  • Josh Shaw

    Will it have built in visual voicemail like iOS?

  • FrillArtist

    If this happens, Windows Phone, here I come. Hell, an iPhone will even look appealing to me.

    • bobbutts

      Rather pay up front once, than a lifetime of forced advertising. Google has a fine line to walk. Doesn't help that Google abandoned my Galaxy Nexus. Still loyal, but inching towards the dark side.

  • J-Hop2o6

    I heard if you call a friend and start talking about drugs, the next time you call the same friend, Google/NSA will have an ad that will have a link under his/her picture that links to the Silk Road! Damn I love Google. Makes life much easier.
    /s

  • mateor

    I am pretty sure these strings have been floating around for several Android versions. Maybe I am misremembering something.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Please see Update #2.

      • mateor

        I thought I had seen that. Integrating with AdMob probably for use with the new AdvertisementID

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          But why integrate with AdMob and have an AdvertisementID if you're not serving advertisements in one form or another?

          • mateor

            Oh, I can totally see serving suggestions in the dialer. Those strings may been dormant for a long time, but they survived numerous refactors and are now seeing changes. There is a plan, as you guessed initially. Even if they aren't debuting it now, any implementation should respect AdMobs opt-out, so no surprise to see it added.

  • master94

    Google should force ads on other OS first before Android. Especially since ios gets new Google apps before Android now, which is really sad.

  • Ray

    I don't know why but this seems really dirty of Google to me. I know you can turn it off, but it just seems really wrong to be showing ads in the dialer. I paid for that phone and don't want to be forced to see ads. I know they aren't forced yet, but in a couple of years, who knows.

    I'm sure I'll get use to it, but it just doesn't sit well with me at the moment.

    • CoreRooted

      You paid the manufacturer for the phone. You haven't paid Google, per se. AOSP is released under the Apache License. Therefore, when you buy your device, Google is still making next to nothing (a large amount of the cost of the Nexus devices still goes to LG (or other manufacturer) for the hardware costs).

      The only way Google makes money is off ads. To be honest, yes, I despise ads, but if it keeps Android free and device costs lower (by the manufacturer/carriers having to pay Android licensing costs), then I'd rather have a small ad in the dialer.

      • FrillArtist

        Wow. What a shill.

        • CoreRooted

          A shill because I don't want to see the cost of Android devices rise because we can't put up with Google's revenue model? Sure. Ok.

  • Christoph Schüpfer

    Cant believe every one of my coworkers bitching about my commenting old code and even google does it... feel kinda good right now^^.

  • http://www.geordienorman.com/ George Byers

    Thing of it this way, what are the chances of this just being standard code that must be put into every google app, but may which never be used......

  • Alawn

    Is there an apk download for the new dialer?

  • Brother Love

    pretty sure ads will only show if you use the new search within dialer for near by places, say you search for a place to go for dinner it will show a featured one which is a paid for ad

  • Christian Tolentino

    APK please..

  • A Black UI is the best UI

    AdAway solves this problem.

    Want to spam me with ads then i'll just use an ad blocker to give you the middle finger cause you don't deserve to earn anything from pissing people off.

  • killik

    I am a bit skeptic, an attribute called adSize is not that big of a proof.
    It is not uncommon to use the initials of a components in the resource file, with things like ab* for the ActionBar or hb* for the headerBar ...

  • firesoul453

    I really want a nexus 5 but have no use for one. I need a good excuse!

  • G

    If they do this I actually might switch to an iphone. It seems their trying to push ads to every part of the phone. Maps, gmail, dialer what next? We are all aware how they make their money but this is getting ridiculous. Soon they'll be adding ads to the settings menu.

  • Miah

    Does anyone know where the Directory is pulled from? Google Places?