Like most professionals, I carry a smartphone. Although I use it frequently for e-mailing with colleagues or texting with my family, I also use its apps to find information or to entertain myself. And as I navigate its 3.5-inch screen, I routinely encounter something else: a growing stream of itsy-bitsy advertisements.
When I click on the app for the online magazine Slate, for instance, I see a banner—smaller than my pinkie—for something called Bingo Rush, with little stars and the word “free.” What is Bingo Rush? I have no idea. At the bottom of the Huffington Post app is a tiny rectangle that says “Scratch and win with Adidas.” What can I win? I’m not sure; the ad can barely accommodate five words. On my Sudoku app is an ad for BMW—no, wait, it’s Audi. (The photo is so small that it’s hard to tell.) When I give it a tap, the Sudoku app disappears, and my screen goes blank while my phone struggles to load whatever Audi intends to show me next. Before it appears, I’ve lost patience and switched to a different app.
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