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Deceptive ads now in Outlook mobile apps

Microsoft is now showing deceptive, disguised ads into Outlook Mobile apps for Apple and Android. There are ways to, partly, get rid of the ads.

The ads appear for people using the free Outlook mobile apps, not Microsoft 365 subscribers like this:

Source: Ray Wong on Twitter

The ads appear in the Inbox or the ‘Other’ messages if using the Focused Inbox, more on that below.

Having ads in the ‘free’ version of Outlook mobile is reasonable, up to a point. They aren’t clearly different from the email display, leaving plenty of room for mistaken clicks and annoyed users.

Ads disguised as emails

There are complaints that the ads are disguised to look like a regular email, despite the ‘Ad’ logo. The ads have the same format as a regular email, right down to the “initials in a circle” on the left-side.

Not only that, the ad is the top message, the first thing people look at.  It’s easily mistaken for a real email and clicked on, which is exactly what Microsoft wants.

Online ads are often paid on a ‘per click’ basis rather than ‘per impression’ or display. In other words, the advertiser pays each time someone taps on an ad to open the linked web page.

It doesn’t matter if the user clicked by mistake and shuts down the web page immediately, the advertising supplier (Microsoft) gets paid.  It’s in Microsoft’s interest to trick people into clicking, not so much the advertisers.

(In theory, the ads are targeted to the user but, as we all know, that’s not reliable.  Over time, an advertiser should tire of paying for too many clicks that don’t result in sales.)

How to avoid ads in Outlook Mobile apps

Microsoft’s preferred option to remove the ads is to join a Microsoft 365 plan … but there are other choices:

Use Focused Inbox

According to Microsoft, ads won’t appear in the Focused Inbox.  That’s the AI controlled filtering which is supposed to show only the emails you want, leaving marketing messages and Microsoft ads in the ‘Other’ folder.

Turn on Focused Inbox from the Outlook app settings ‘Use Focused Inbox’.

That suggestion is OK if the Focused Inbox works for you. It doesn’t filter well for many people, despite Microsoft’s assurances otherwise.

And you’ll still see ads in the Other display …

Remove Outlook mobile app

As regular readers know, we’ve never been a fan of the Outlook Mobile app, mostly because of the privacy concerns over sharing login passwords with Microsoft. 

We’ve always preferred having email, calendar and contacts windows open separately. You can do that with the individual apps in iPhone, iPad and Android but with Outlook mobile you have to switch, clumsily, within one app.

There are quite good and useful email, calendar and contact apps supplied with both Apple and Android devices. 

If you don’t like the ads, remove Outlook mobile and use the in-built apps instead. 

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