Want $10 off your mobile bill? Put ads on your lock screen

The new Slidejoy app turns your Android phone's lock screen into a billboard, and some of the money that advertisers like Macy's and Adidas pay to place the ads ends up in your pocket.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read
Slidejoy show ads on an Android phone's lock screen. Sliding the ad to the right ignores it, and sliding it to the left triggers further engagement such as opening up a Web page.
Slidejoy show ads on an Android phone's lock screen. Sliding the ad to the right ignores it, and sliding it to the left triggers further engagement such as opening up a Web page. Slidejoy

If you're not annoyed by seeing an ad for J. Crew, Adidas, Target, or Best Buy when you wake up your smartphone, a new app called Slidejoy could lop some money off your monthly phone bill.

The app, which is set to launch Monday, shows an ad from these and some other advertisers on an Android phone's lock screen, said Robert Seo, chief executive of the company. The app adapts to a person's preferences, locations, behaviors, and usage times to "curate a more profitable and relevant user experience," he said, and promises that the ads will be "beautiful."

In return, the company will pay you.

"We have no substantial data yet, so it's hard to give an exact amount for payouts," he said. "But we are targeting between $5 to $15 per month initially and as the algorithm learns, this range will increase."

What's the app algorithm learning from? People's interactions from the ads. Sliding the ad to the right ignores the ad. Sliding to the left signals interest and takes the ad a step further, for example opening up a Web page, a Google Play destination, or a YouTube video.

People get paid the same amount regardless of which way they slide the ad. "This is to ensure our advertisers get quality leads and to provide our app with unbiased data on user preferences," Seo said.

If you have authorization enabled on your phone, such as a PIN code or unlock pattern, you'll see it immediately after swiping the ad.

The app shows how developers have realized that lock screens -- which people often view dozens of times a day -- is prime real estate. Operating system developers adjust lock screens with features like notifications, music playback controls, and direct access to the camera. And app developers are adding more, too: the Cover app for Android turns the lock screen into a customized home screen, and the users ICE Unlock Fingerprint Secure get a fingerprint scanner built into their home screen.

Slidejoy initially will be only for Android phones. "We are expecting to come out with our iOS app by fall 2014," Seo said.

Slidejoy plans to extend to iOS devices in the fall of 2014.
Slidejoy plans to extend to iOS devices in the fall of 2014. Slidejoy

The usual tradeoff in advertising applies here, too: Give up more of your personal information, and the company will try to target the ads toward your interests.

Here's how Seo describes the privacy implications:

We don't share any individual information of our users.

When users sign up, they have a choice to register through Facebook or to provide their basic demographic information separately. The more accurate information users provide, the easier it is for Slidejoy to curate a better experience. For instance, if I'm in a Macy's store, then Slidejoy can recognize my location and push me an ad with a coupon for a jacket that appeals to men my age. This way, I make money from the app and save money on a jacket style I liked, but wasn't aware of. Later on, when the weather warms up, I can be shopping in the same location, and be pushed an ad for shorts from the same designer.

The app notifies a person daily how much money they've made; they can cash out monthly using Square Cash electronic payments or donate the money to a charity, Seo said.

The company is dealing directly with its initial advertisers and merchants -- including Sephora, MeUndies.com, Groupon, Best Buy, Target, Adidas, J. Crew, and Macy's -- but will expand to financial services companies and makers of other consumer products, too. The company also is using ad networks to draw on a larger supply of ads, Seo said.

The six-person company's headquarters are in New York, with some research and development work in Seoul. Along with Seo, the company's founders are mobile programmers Hovan Yoo and Jay Chung and back-end programmer Mike Sanghoon Kwak.