No one likes ads. However, ads are a reality that we must live with. Or, must we? One of the great things about Android is all the free apps. The downside to free apps are advertisements. What if one could block these ads? I mean, you can block ads on a PC  so you should be able to on your phone also, right? This article explores how to block ads on Android.
Now, before we go on, it must be noted that for many app developers ads are a crucial source of revenue and are often the biggest reason why an app can exist for free. So before you start blocking ads, think about the developers (and the fat Google Execs) the ads are supporting. Once you get your moral compass in order, continue reading this article to learn how to block ads on your Android phone.
(One of the best ways to support a developer is to purchase the pro/donate/ad-free version of an app – almost all apps have them. If you support a developer by purchasing the paid version of their app, you won’t have to feel guilty about blocking ads.)
Table of Contents
App Name: AdFree Android  
Note: dotTech has written a full review  on AdFree Android.
Download Size: 42 KB
Version Reviewed: v0.6.4
Requires: Android 2.1 and up and a rooted phone
- Easy to use and very effective.
- Does not continuously stay on in the background: Use once and never use again.
- Blocks ads in everything – including internet browsers and apps.
- Requires phone to be rooted.
- Does not block all ads (blocks most ads).
- Does not allow users to exclude specific websites or apps from ad-blocking.
Ever heard of something called hosts file on your PC? Without going into too many technical details, hosts file is basically a file that allows your computer to connect to servers/websites. Android uses a hosts file, too. AdFree Android blocks ads by modifying your phone’s hosts file and making entries to reject connections to ad servers; in other words, it “nullifies requests to known hostnames serving ads”. If an app or website cannot connect to its ad server, it cannot show you ads. Brilliant, isn’t it?
As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages of this hosts file approach to blocking ads. The advantages are:
- Blocking ads is quick, efficient, and effective. With a click of a button AdFree Android downloads and modifies your hosts file (can take up to a minute depending on your connection speed and phone). Furthermore, AdFree Android is able to block most all ads because the hosts file contains entries to all major ad hostnames.
- AdFree Android does not run continuously in order to block ads. You run AdFree Android once and potentially never run it again. The only times you need to re-run AdFree Android is if you want to update your hosts file with the latest entries or if you want to undo the ad blocking. (Take note that if you chose for AdFree Android to automatically update the hosts file daily – this is an option in the app – then AdFree Android will occasionally run automatically to update the hosts file. It will close after it does its work.)
- Ads are blocked on your whole phone. This includes all apps and internet browsers. (However, do note that if you are using an internet browser that serves cached pages, like with Opera Turbo in Opera Mini, AdFree Android will not be able to block ads because the browser is showing you pages cached at the server level which are not affected by your hosts file.)
The disadvantages are:
- Root is required. The only way to modify the hosts file on your Android phone is to have root access. If you don’t have a rooted phone, AdFree Android will not work for you.
- Although AdFree Android blocks most ads, the hosts file cannot possibly contain information regarding all ad hostnames, so some ads are not blocked. I have not done a scientific study on it, but if I were to guess I would say AdFree Android is able to block more than 95% of all ads; it definitely blocks all Google/AdMob ads. If you ever find AdFree Android is not blocking some ads, try updating your hosts files by running AdFree Android again. It may be that new hostnames have been added since you last run AdFree Android and the ads that were not being blocked before are being blocked now.
- The hosts file on your phone is for your whole phone; specific websites or apps do not get their own version of the hosts file. Therefore, AdFree Android does not allow users to exclude specific websites or apps from ad blocking. AdFree Android is an all or nothing ordeal. For the most part this won’t bother people, but sometimes it can be annoying. For example, when going to eBay.com on my Nexus S I am sent to the mobile version of the website. At the bottom of the mobile version of eBay.com, there is a “classic site” link that allows me to view the full non-mobile version of eBay.com. However, eBay has run the link through an ad hostname (not because the link is an ad, but rather – presumably – because it allows them to better track how many mobile devices prefer the non-mobile website); since an ad hostname is being used for the link, the link is being blocked by my hosts file and I cannot access the full version of eBay.com.
That said, I would like to provide quick commentary on using AdFree Android. While using AdFree Android is very easy (literally just clicking a few buttons), the interface can be a little bit confusing to novices. Although you may feel daunted by the symlink and IP options, don’t worry about them. The only thing you need to worry about in AdFree Android are the two buttons at the top (“Download & Install Hosts” and “Revert”) which enable/disable ad blocking respectively and the option to “check server for updates daily”, which updates the hosts file automatically on a daily basis. (I don’t suggest setting AdFree Android to automatically update the hosts file daily because the hosts file contents don’t change very frequently. You will just be wasting battery power and bandwidth by checking for useless updates. It is better to manually update the hosts files occasionally or on-demand when the need arises.) All other options are not important, unless you specifically know what you are doing and want to change the settings.
To sum up this article in six words or less: Ads be gone with AdFree Android.