Huawei has been painting itself as a victim of great injustice in the past weeks after it had been slammed by a US trade ban. Last week, however, it became the villain when its phones started serving ads on their lockscreens. At first Huawei’s US PR team denied any such activity. While it now owns up to the error, it might only be because its actual plans have been revealed ahead of schedule.
To be fair, the ads that popped up on Huawei and Honor phones weren’t as blatant as some malware versions. They appeared only on the lock screen and only when using Huawei’s default lock screen with the Magazine feature enabled. That feature cycled through images and that’s where the problem lied.
Huawei’s and Honor’s official statements say that those images were inadvertently published from Huawei’s servers and have been deleted. They also give instructions on how to remove those images in case they were downloaded locally already. What Huawei doesn’t explain is why those images existed in the first place.
The ads linked to some popular services like Booking.com and didn’t seem accidental. If anything, these images suggest that Huawei may have been experimenting internally with ads on lock screens. Its real mistake was that it let those images out in the wild.
Huawei will hardly be the only company to use lock screen ads but others like Amazon are more upfront about it. Part of what riled up users was that the ads were unannounced and undisclosed, giving them little chance to switch to a different lock screen or turn the “feature” off.