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17 July 2017

HTC users are seeing banner ads on their keyboards

The HTC U11 (left) sits next to last year's flagship HTC 10 (center).
The HTC U11 (left) sits next to last year’s flagship HTC 10 (center).

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Banner ads are the last thing you’d ever expect to see (or want) included with your smartphone’s on-screen keyboard.

Yet, that’s exactly what some owners of HTC Android phones are discovering on their devices. The reaction to the big time screw up is unanimous: “What the hell is this doing here?”

Some HTC 10 and U11 users with the default TouchPal keyboard installed on their devices started noticing banner ads floating just above their keyboards.

It’s exactly the kind of nightmare scenario a struggling phone company doesn’t need. But hey, shit happens when you outsource the keyboard to a third-party developer instead of building your own.

Angry phone owners have been tweeting at HTC for an explanation, and so far they’ve only been offered a big ‘ol bag of IDK. The company is just as baffled over the banner ads as users, says it was an error, and is advising people to uninstall the TouchPal keyboard from their devices.

The blame appears to be on TouchPal, which looks to have accidentally pushed the wrong button and turned on banner ads.

When we checked on our office device with the TouchPal keyboard installed, we couldn’t get the banner ads to appear. So, it maybe be that only some devices with the app are affected. Or it could be that TouchPal has already fixed the issue. Mashable has reached out to HTC for a comment and will update as soon as we hear back.

Regardless, this debacle doesn’t bode well for HTC. Yeah, shit happens, but when it comes to shoving ads on a keyboard — even if it was by accident — it rubs customers the wrong way. What’s to stop this from accidentally happening again? Banner ads should never have been built into a keyboard that’s installed by default in the first place. It’s, frankly, inexcusable.

HTC has been trying to revive its phone business for a few years now. Although the company’s still committed to releasing premium flagship phones, the last few have been somewhat lackluster. It also doesn’t help that HTC is one of the few Android phone makers following Apple’s lead with devices that don’t include headphone jacks.

The U11 is a decent phone, but ultimately it pales in comparison to Samsung’s edge-to-edge Galaxy S8, and even phones from smaller companies like OnePlus, who are undercutting the price with their own premium devices.

Troubled phone business aside, HTC still has some cachet, particularly with virtual reality fans thanks to its Vive headset. But if banner ads can accidentally get pushed to its phones, what’s to stop it from happening on the Vive or other HTC devices?

For now, all we can do is hope that this problem is solved for good. And if you’re still using the TouchPal keyboard, we’d suggest switching over to something more useful like Google’s Gboard app.

UPDATE: July 17, 2017, 11:37 a.m. EDT HTC sent Mashable the following statement via email, and said the banner ads should already be fixed: 

“Due to an error, some HTC customers have reported seeing ads on their phone’s keyboard. This is absolutely not the experience we intended, and we’re working to immediately fix the error and remove the ads as quickly as possible.”

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