Apple contemplating free, ad-supported iPhone?

Apple filed a patent application for forced advertising. While you and I might hate it, there are lots of people who would probably tolerate the ads in exchange for a free device. I first read the piece in the New York Times about Apple's recent patent application for forced advertising I was as shocked as most.

The technology can freeze the device until the user clicks a button or answers a test question to demonstrate that he or she has dutifully noticed the commercial message.

After all, who wants to view and acknowledge ads via an "enforcement routine" that gives the user no other choice? Certainly not someone who paid $100-$300 for the iPhone (plus $75+ per month) – that's for sure.

However, someone who doesn't want to plunk down $100-$300 may be interested in an ad-subsidized iPhone if it brings the initial price down. Heck, Apple could even subsidize the monthly fee, although that's less likely because most of it goes to the carrier, in this case AT&T.

What about a digital equivalent of washing dishes when you forget your wallet at the restaurant? Apple could allow users to "pay down" their tab by watching advertising and taking a quick quiz. Got some time waiting in the doctor's office or in line at the DMV? Why not take Ford lifestyle vehicle "quiz" and take $10 off your bill.

Any form of forced advertising makes me a little uncomfortable, but then again I'm not the target demographic for the technology. My 18-year-old cousin, on the other hand, would probably kill to get his mitts on an ad-supported iPhone if it was free.

Apple's latest patent isn't just for iPhones and iPod touches. According to the NYTimes piece there's also a version planned for music players that inserts commercials with an audible prompt to verify the listener’s attentiveness. So free ad-supported iPods could be on the horizon as well.

While the technology is more than a little tacky and sounds a tad Orwellian to me, Apple is obligated to its shareholders to pursue all revenue oppotunities when it comes to its golden goose, the iPod. Can you blame them?

My main qualm with this latest patent is that if it's really about capturing more market share and ultimately, revenue, why doesn't Apple consider a music subscription service?


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