Stick it to Google with AdAway


When I first moved to Android from S60 in 2010 I was aghast at all the advertising littered across the screen of my new Nexus One.

Seriously, they were everywhere. Ads in the web browser? Fair enough… Ads in games? Bit of an eyesore… Ads in a file browser? Are you kidding me?!!

Fortunately there exists an app that will allow you to take back some control of your Android device. You won’t find it in the Play Store — seriously, you won’t — but you will find it in the F-Droid FOSS software repository; it’s called AdAway.

How It Works

It’s deviously simple: the app rewrites part of your device’s hosts file, replacing the locations for Google’s ad servers with empty values. And it works amazingly well; after a reboot (recommended but apparently not required) all ads from your device simply disappear.

As you can imagine, AdAway requires root. I’ll add my humble opinion that AdAway is among the top reasons why you’d want to consider rooting your Android device.

The Contentious Part

At this point you might be thinking that using AdAway is more like sticking it to app developers than to Google. It’s a fair point. I’d counter with the following:

  1. AdAway doesn’t stop you from paying for software if you want to.
  2. Downloading ads uses data, data that you have to pay for.
  3. Have you ever actually clicked on an ad?

Bonus Features

If you’re in China you can use AdAway to bust through the Great Firewall. That’s pretty cool. And if you really know what you’re doing you can even generate your own hosts file. There is a big security risk in doing this, so you really should know what you’re doing.

Banned From The Play Store

In March, 2013 Google de-listed ad-blocking apps from its official app store, citing some fine print in its Developer Distribution Agreement:

4.4 Prohibited Actions. You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Market, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator.

Fortunately, getting AdAway through F-Droid is as easy as navigating to on your device and downloading the .apk file directly from the site. Make sure that “unknown sources” is selected in your device’s security settings and you’re good to go.

F-Droid is itself a pretty great alternative to the Play Store; I might write more about it in another post…