Developers are constantly looking for ways to monetize their software. Balancing the user experience with business concerns is a tightrope every tech company has to walk at some point or another and sometimes mistakes are made. Case in point: A strange update to the stock keyboard found in the HTC U11, U Ultra, and many other HTC devices now has users fuming and the company apologizing on social media.
The app in question is HTC’s TouchPal Keyboard, which comes built in on the company’s own devices, but is also available with in-app purchases for other Android phones. The update has added banner advertisements that randomly appear above the top row of suggestions. TouchPal never operated this way before the update, which makes the change even more surprising. However, HTC has called the appearance of the ads an “error” that it is looking to correct “as quickly as possible.”
Due to an error, some customers are seeing ads on the phone keyboard. We're working to fix the error and remove these as quickly as possible
— HTC UK (@HTC_UK) July 17, 2017
A stock keyboard app is the absolute last place users would ever expect to see an ad, which explains the frustration. To make matters worse, adding another row to the keyboard leaves the viewable window of the current app hilariously small. It is not only annoying to have to put up with the ads, but it actually cuts into the display real estate in a significant way, hampering the user experience as well.
— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) July 17, 2017
Unsurprisingly, the displeasure has manifested itself in poor reviews and low ratings for the TouchPal Keyboard on its Google Play Store listing page.
“Are you kidding me?! Ads on a default keyboard?!” one user exclaimed in a one-star submission. “The ads are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said another. “I’m going to be uninstalling this app.”
If the issue is a mistake, it is unlike one we have seen from a device manufacturer. Perhaps HTC is testing or investigating putting ads in the free version for other Android phones. This would explain the mix-up, though it is hardly a consolation for users who have purchased a shiny new U11 in the last month. We reached out to HTC for clarification and will update this post as we receive word from the company.