Microsoft is abusing Android’s share sheet by inserting ads for its apps
Bill Gates may have admitted that he regrets letting Android out of his hands, but Microsoft’s interest in wooing Android users is far from gone. Ever since the tech giant acknowledged that Windows Phone cannot compete with Android or iOS any longer, Microsoft has been working on apps for Android smartphones which sync work, media, and notifications with their Windows PCs. However, under this cloak of practical additives, Microsoft has been peddling ads to users in sneaky ways. Several users are reporting that if they have one or more Microsoft apps installed on their Android smartphone, they see prompts to download other Microsoft apps.
Microsoft appears to be pushing these ads in the form of suggestions to download a relevant app through the share sheet in Android. As you can see in the first screenshot below, Microsoft’s OneDrive appears as one of the options for sharing an image. OP u/flugelhorn444 says that they have been witnessing this install prompt since they installed Your Phone Companion app.
Besides this, Manuel Vonau of Android Police says that he also got app install prompts while trying to open files formats which be opened by Microsoft apps like Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc. Say you don’t have the Powerpoint app installed on your Android phone and you’re trying to open a .ppt/.pptx file, you’ll get a suggestion to download Powerpoint in the “Open with” menu. This appears to be happening if you have any Microsoft app installed on your smartphone.
Vonau says that while the prompts to open files using a Microsoft app, not currently available on your smartphone, is widespread. He further clarifies that he was able to reproduce the OneDrive prompt in the sharing shortcuts only after installing the Your Phone Companion app. In Android Q Beta, the “culprit” app is seen in the “Open with” tray while the suggested app is mentioned in a fine print below.
Google Play’s ad policy clearly mentions that apps showing “deceptive or disruptive ads” are not permitted. It reads,
“Ads must only be displayed within the app serving them.”
This style of ads violates Android’s ad policy, so it’ll be interesting to note if Google initiates similar kind of against Microsoft as it did against Chinese developers Cheetah Mobile, DO Global, and others for interfering with the ad monetization process. So far, all of these apps including the Your Phone Companion app are still live on the Google Play Store.