Apple could potentially expand ads to the Maps, Podcasts and Books apps

Apple has internally tested Maps search ads. Moreover, the company could bring advertising to its other preinstalled iPhone apps, such as Books and Podcasts.

Two iPhone screenshots showcasing two ad placements on the App Store: Today view and the very bottom of individual app pages
Composition: Christian Zibreg; Screenshots: Apple
  • What’s happening? Apple could bring more ads to the iPhone, iPad and Mac in the future. It’s reportedly internally tested search ads in the Maps app, but the initiative could bring advertising to its other apps, such as Podcasts and Books.
  • Why care? Apple positions the iPhone as a premium smartphone with a clean interface. There’s an expectation among customers that Apple is mostly an ad-free experience, meaning no one is going to like being pestered with more ads.
  • What to do? You can write to Apple to express your dissatisfaction that the company appears willing to monetize users with ads, but that won’t change a thing. All we can do is hope that Apple won’t run the experience with ads.

Who’s ready for a lot more ads on their iPhone?

Apple already serves display ads in the App Store, Stocks and News apps on iOS, iPadOS and macOS. And two additional ad placements are coming to the App Store—the second slot in the Today view and the bottom of individual app pages. But that’s not all, even more ads could be coming to the iPhone and iPad in the future.

According to the latest edition of Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter on Bloomberg, Apple has already internally tested search ads in the Maps app. Advertisers like restaurants could pay Apple to rank at the top of local listings when users searched for specific keywords like “sushi” in the Maps app.

The author speculates that publishers could promote their releases with search and display ads in the Books and Podcasts apps. He even dreams up an ad-based Apple TV+ programming that could offer older shows for a lower price.

It’s unclear how much of any of this is based on real chatter vs. speculation.

I believe that the iPhone maker will eventually expand search ads to Maps. It also will likely add them to digital storefronts like Apple Books and Apple Podcasts. And TV+ could generate more advertising with multiple tiers (just as Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. are doing with their streaming services).

Currently, Apple’s ad business adds circa $4 billion to its annual revenue

Apple ads already make $4 billion annually

However, as Gurman writes in the newsletter, the company’s leadership reportedly wants to increase that to the double digits. “Apple is going to, over time, significantly expand its own advertising business,” reads the newsletter.

The effort includes the Podcasts and Books apps, which currently lack search and display ads. Gurman says the real test will be whether customers would be willing to put up with even more ads on their iPhones, iPads and Macs.

Some people may resent Apple putting ads in the News and Stocks apps. After all, the iPhone is supposed to be a premium device. Let’s say you shelled out $1,000 or more to buy one, do you want to feel like Apple is squeezing more money out of you just to use its standard features?

This initiative only concerns ads that Apple serves in its own apps. The company also used to serve ads in third-party apps via its iAd service, discontinued in 2016.

Worryingly, however, the ad group’s vice president, Todd Teresi, is understood to have gained a foothold within Apple’s services department a few months ago.

The ads business also was called out during Apple’s most recent earnings call, though not in a positive way. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said the operation saw some Covid-related headwinds.

Still, Cook sounded committed to the business, calling it a “great” discovery tool for app developers. That’s more than Cook said about many of the company’s key initiatives during the call, including AirPods, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, health and fitness services, or the Apple Card.

Gurman wouldn’t say when Apple might start testing serving more ads. This feels like a controlled leak as if someone in Apple’s ad department talked to Gurman so that the company could gauge how the public might accept more ads on their Apple devices. Read: 3 ways to find the GPS coordinates of any location on an iPhone

Remember back in 2011, when Steve Jobs was announcing iCloud, how proudly he made a promise to Apple customers that iCloud would have no ads whatsoever?