The Huawei subreddit is in a bit of an uproar today, as multiple posts have popped up indicating that the company has started pushing lock screen ads for users of its smartphones, all without the user's permission or awareness.
Multiple Reddit threads in the last 24 hours show that owners of Huawei phones, seemingly in the EU region, are seeing a variety of Booking.com ads on their lock screens. These are not actually interactive ads, but rather a part of the rotating lock screen wallpaper gallery that users can find by default through the Magazine view on their Huawei smartphones.
Users have found a few workarounds to the intrusive and uninvited ads. The first is to simply delete the offending wallpapers from the Magazine gallery. You can do so by swiping up from the bottom of the screen on the lock screen, then swiping left until you find the Booking.com images and deleting them, as one Redditor explains.
Another fix is to simply disable the Magazine view entirely and either use a single image or your own wallpapers.
Huawei would not be the first smartphone manufacturer to push ads through its OS to make a little bit more money off its wares. Xiaomi is famous for doing this in developing markets like India. Amazon, too, tried something similar with its Kindle lineup some time back. The difference here is that Huawei never notified users of the change, and has generally never talked in public about instituting these changes. Even worse, the ads are showing up on even flagship grade phones by the company, such as its recently released P30 Pro. That is certainly going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of those who bought the gadget for as much as €999.
Huawei is already struggling in Western markets after its networking equipment business was flagged by the Trump administration as a potential national security threat, while the company's recent addition to an export blacklist has prevented the company from having access to critical U.S.-made technologies for its products. To survive these trying times, the Chinese giant will need all the goodwill from Western customers that it can muster, and sneakily adding ads to their lock screens is definitely not the best way to go about doing that.
We've reached out to Huawei to find out more about why these ads are showing up, and if this is an indication of a change in the way Huawei monetizes its phones. We'll update the article if we hear back from the company's representatives.
Update: Huawei has reached out to Digital Times with a comment on the matter, denying that the ads are being served by Huawei:
“The ads are not initiated by Huawei. We encourage individuals to check app settings, or follow publicly available directions on how to remove lock screen ads.”
A Honor representative, too, denied that any phones sold by the company are doing this in any market. Huawei seems to be suggesting that the ads are being propagated by third-party apps - and this is also what a Huawei support rep told a Redditor by the name of faefield. faefield goes on to suggest that he never had the Booking.com app installed in the first place, and that this couldn't possibly be the cause:
I contacted the local (EU region) Huawei support. They first said it's a third-party app and I then explained that the ads are coming from the magazine unlock. Their answer was that they have heard booking.com app causing this, and that I should uninstall the app.
I don't have a booking.com app and never have had it. The support doesn't seem to have any idea what is causing this, but it surely isn't a Booking.com app.
It's just disgusting and I will not leave it here if I see another ad on my lock-screen.
However, Huawei phones often come with the Booking.com app pre-installed and, thus, it is feasible that it could be to blame here. Still, it would be a sign of negligence on Huawei's part if the apps it pre-installs on users' phones don't respect its customers' agency and serve ads without their permission.
Whatever the cause behind it, you can disable these ads for the time being by simply deleting them or turning off Magazine Unlock, as stated above. You could also try checking to see if you have the Booking.com app installed and deleting it. Huawei, for its part, suggests you "follow publicly available directions on how to remove lock screen ads.”