Adblock Plus for Android prevents in-app ads from showing


What if I told you that you could prevent in-app ads from showing on most Android apps, as well as ads in on-device internet browsers.

What if you could do so by simply installing an app, and that you could install this app on any normal, non-rooted Android.

Adblock Plus is the free Android app that can do this. It works very well and blocks many types of ads including mobile ads, video advertising, banners, push notifications, display advertising, HTML5 ads, and others.

The app is pretty much ‘install and forget’ and works in the background without user intervention; however, ad-blocking performance depends on several factors, including the version of Android you are using and whether you have a WIFI or mobile internet connection. Ad-blocking performance will be better on rooted devices.

Adblock Plus Screenshot 1Adblock Plus Screenshot 2

How it works:

Once installed, Adblock Plus will find and download a ‘filter subscription’ that it will use to block ads. These are definitions that enable it to block ads effectively, and they need to be actively maintained and updated. You as a user will not mess with this at all, though, as these will be auto-updated periodically. However, you can go in and change the default subscription if you like. It is possible to get information on each of these lists although somewhat labor intensive. My advice: stick with the default list, and only look into others if you see that ads are not going away.

Otherwise, simply use your apps as per normal. You will see that the ads are not there anymore when using WIFI. Some ads may appear if you have a mobile/3G connection, however. This cannot be helped, unless you have a rooted Android device. If your Android version is 3.0 or earler, you may need to manually configure a proxy.

Note: once  switch on ads filtering, if there are any running apps at the time you have to exit the app completely and relaunch it to see the effect.


The app in the screenshots below demonstrates in-app ads (left, without Adblock plus), and then the disappearance of said ads (middle, after ad filtering with Adblock plus is enabled). The third screenshot, on the right, shows blank ads which will occasionally appear (and then disappear shortly afterwards).

In app ads - no Adblock filteringAds filtered with Adblock plusBlank ads will appear occaisionally

The verdict:

A great app that can greatly enhance your Android experience. My only criticism of the app as such is that the whole ‘subscription list’ concept is a bit strange, making me wonder why the folks behind Adblock Plus wouldn’t create a ‘meta list’ for example, but I am guessing they probably have a good reason.

Note that Adblock Plus works routing all traffic through it, and since it will not block ads on mobile internet connections, it would be nice to add the option to activate Adblock Plus only when the device is connected to WIFI, so that mobile traffic is not unnecessarily processed through it’s proxy (and avoid any undue slowness on mobile connections).

Adblock Plus may be a game changer in terms of the implicit contract between app/content creators and users. As someone who relies on ads to keep this site running, I can imagine the disruption that ad blocking can cause app creators, and I am frankly sympathetic.

While ad blockers on the PC were mostly the province of sophisticated users and techies who are unlikely to click on an ad anyway, an install-it-and-forget-it app on a smartphone may be different, and may have wide ranging consequences for the Android app economy that make it even less attractive to developers compared to iOS. On the flip side, it may be that ad-supported content is dying anyway, with ‘freemium’ taking over as the monetization scheme of choice. I will rarely if ever review ad-supported Android games on this site, for example, but freemium games are definitely welcome.

Get Adblock Plus here (Android).

  • There have been ad blockers out for Android for as long as there have been ads but they mostly work by adding known ad servers to the hosts file same as on a windows machine.

    AdBlock Plus uses filtering as different countries have different ads so you may not want the full list as it could really start to slow things down. Given it is using the same lists as the browser version I guess it works the same way which is by looking at the HTML used to display the ads and looking for things that match the filters such as a directory called ads.

    • Ah a quick read shows me that AdBlock Plus on Android works as a proxy so all traffic goes through it. Could be considered dangerous so I guess it’s all down to how much you trust the app maker. But this does explain how it can block ads.

      • I was under the impression that other Android ad blockers required a rooted device, or at least the ones that I chanced upon. That is why I got excited about this one.

        You are absolutely right about the trust issue. However, Adblock Plus has been around for a very long time on browsers, so that at least is a vote in its favor in terms of a track record and a history of trustworthiness.

        I will probably not be using this app on my Android in the long term, but its not because of any lack of trust. Rather, I want to be able to see in-app ads when I make a decision on whether or not to write something up.

        • Yes the others require root because, like I said, they change the hosts file so that ad serving domains point to good old and therefore never connect.

  • Fred Thompson

    @Carbonize, you could have done a little research into AdBlock before posting an assumption.

    @Samer, Freemium is a fantastic option. Casual simple use is quite different than a frequently-used tool. Some good examples are the Apogee games and VodBurner. Android apps are cheaper to write and distribute and there is a larger user base. Why do you think iOS is more profitable for developers? You could use a task-killer to stop AdBlock Plus when you want to do a “clean” review of an app.

    • @ Fred: Carbonize has a green light to post anything that he likes in the spur of the moment, on account of him being one of the readers who has done a lot to enrich posts on this blog and raise their level of intelligence 😉

      I do think iOS apps are more profitable. I read somewhere that some developers have either shied from or pulled out of Android altogether, for several reasons including low sales as well as much higher levels of piracy in general.

      Anyway, here are some quick links I found:

    • @Fred, I’ve been using AdBlock Plus for years in my web browsers so am well aware of how it works in them. If you go to the site they do not make it clear that the Android app works as a proxy on the front page and I felt that possibly they worked some other way. I did then go do some research and correct myself. This is the way I work, even in IM. I type what I am thinking and send it and if I realise I was wrong I will correct myself. I prefer this method as it better replicates real life discussion.

  • J.L.

    Although this is the best option, it isn’t the only non-root adblocker.

    1. You can set-up a custom DNS using Static IP. FoolDNS blocks ads and phishing.
    2. You can install the Adblock Plus Firefox Mobile extension.
    3. You can use Android Adblock, which works the same way, except way buggier.

  • This is just what I am looking for. Can it also stop the ads I get sent through that say “You may have a Virus – click here to sort this” ? (Or something on those tracks)

    • If you mean the ones that appear in your web browser then they say it depends on the web browser.