Appbrain, which we here at AP use to this day thanks to a few handful features that the Play Store still hasn't implemented, analyzed 140,000 Android apps and came up with a list of the top 10 ad networks.

While they don't openly state the source of this data, I am willing to bet that it comes from analytics reported by their Ad Detector app which hit the Play Store a few months back. The app itself, much like Lookout Ad Network Detector, is very handy - it lets users figure out what ad networks, social SDKs, and even developer tools are used by apps installed on their devices.

It only makes sense that the information collected was reported back to Appbrain (hopefully after appropriately notifying users of such actions), aggregated, analyzed, and presented as a handy infographic. The sample size is 140,000 apps, which I'd say is representative of the currently active portion of the Play Store and therefore should paint an accurate picture.

Update: Appbrain confirmed my theory - the data was indeed collected by Ad Detector. They added:

Yes, the ad detector allows people to add anonymously to our ad-network database (there is also an opt-out for that).

We have also thought about whether the quality of our data is good enough and whether there may be significant biases, but our opinion is that the data is not subject to structural bias and our conclusions are valid, because of the following points:

- The ad detector was pretty much only promoted by us, it's not getting very many downloads if we're not actively promoting it on our site, so it's not 100% people that searched for "remove airpush" or something similar.

- Even if all the people that install the ad detector have a single airpush / aggressive ad network on their phone and install the ad detector, we also potentially get information about on average ~50+ other apps they have installed. We only keep apps we receive once in our database, so we very quickly collected information about the most popular apps, and even now, most of the time we have 100% of a users' installed apps in our database already. Therefore our database has very high coverage of all commonly downloaded apps.

I agree that whether the exact numbers of for instance airpush are not slightly overestimated is very hard to say. Unfortunately, it's very strongly on the rise, so even if they're actually a bit lower now than in our current data, it will soon be that way (we also looked at apps that were released in the last 30 days, and in those apps the airpush market share is 16%.)

Before we proceed, it's worth pointing out the absence of Google's AdSense on the list. It's not an omission - as Google explained last year, AdMob is used for mobile apps, while AdSense is used for mobile sites.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 ad networks - I bet you didn't think AirPush was at... #2:

  1. Admob 39.2%
  2. AirPush 6.5%
  3. Millennial Media 5.1%
  4. LeadBolt 4.1%
  5. AdWhirl 3.9%
  6. MobClix 3.5%
  7. InMobi 2.6%
  8. MobFox 1.8%
  9. Tapjoy 1.5%
  10. Startapp 1.2%

At least SellARing is nowhere to be seen... for now.

Thankfully, publishers of the top 500 Android apps are a little more sensible about aggressive, as Appbrain calls it, form of advertising (the word "intrusive" comes to mind too), and AirPush is way down at #9 on that list, with LeadBolt not even in the top 10.

Overall, however, a whopping 12% of apps use some form of aggressive advertising. Thankfully, I have none of those installed, and if I ever do by accident, Ad Network Detector will slap them right out of me.