I get the feeling that a lowly software engineer somewhere in the bowels of T-Mobile's corporate headquarters is feeling even lower tonight. After a recent update to the often mandatory T-Mobile MyAccount Android app, users started noticing periodic ads appearing in the Android notification bar. T-Mobile customers were, to put it mildly, ticked. The story hit the tech media after threads on T-Mobile's support forums and Reddit reached into the hundreds. Now T-Mobile seems to have seen the error of its ways, apologizing for the "mistake" and saying that it won't happen again.
Here's the full text of T-Mobile's apology, from TmoNews:
During a recent software update, a message to promote T-Mobile’s free VIP Zone was mistakenly sent to certain customers and appeared on the notification bar for some Android devices. After T-Mobile was made aware of this mistake, the company stopped the notifications. T-Mobile apologizes for the inconvenience this may have caused customers.
T-Mobile claims that ads for the T-Mobile VIP Zone were "mistakenly" sent out to customers' notification bars. To be blunt, that sounds less than likely - sending out an update like that requires some very deliberate calls on Android's APIs, and the chance of them being sent by accident is almost zero. Even so, T-Mobile should get some major brownie points for both recognizing its customers' objections and reacting to them quickly. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Notification bar ads are becoming more and more common, and on Android at least, they're considerably more invasive than banner or pop-up ads thanks to being placed in close proximity to legitimate updates like email, texts and music. They're a frequent feature of "free" apps that you really shouldn't download, and at least one Japanese carrier has experimented with the idea itself. We're glad that T-Mobile realized and recitified its mistake so quickly... and we hope that other carriers learn from the example.