'Fat Fingers' Blamed For Accidental Mobile Ad Clicks

Robert Siegel and Melissa Block talk about Google's launch of a new type of mobile ad that aims to combat the "fat finger" problem. As the smartphone market grows, mobile ads have become more important to the tech giant, which makes most of its revenue through advertising.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


We end this hour with a bit of tech news about your phone and a problem that has long confounded the mobile industry. It's known as the fat finger problem.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now.


That's Homer Simpson experiencing the fat finger problem firsthand. While our fingers aren't getting any smaller, the buttons on our smart phones are. That means we dial a lot of wrong numbers, it also means when we surf the Web, we inadvertently hit an ad and get whisked away to some sponsor's website.

JONATHAN ALFERNESS: If you think about the tip of your finger and you think about how much screen real estate the tip of your finger takes up on even a modern, larger cell phone screen, right, it's a nontrivial amount of space.

SIEGEL: That's Jonathan Alferness of Google. And mobile ads are anything but trivial for the tech giant, which makes most of its money from advertising. Estimates vary, but it has been reported that 20 to 40 percent of all mobile ad clicks are accidental. And Alferness says that's a problem.

ALFERNESS: It was one of the things, I think from an industry point of view, that was holding back advertisers from wanting to spend on mobile advertising.

BLOCK: Well, to fight the fat finger problem, Google has just rolled out a new type of mobile advertisement. It involves image banner ads, the kind you often find at the top or bottom of your smart phone screen when you're using a free app. But now, if you accidentally touch the border of the ad, it asks you to confirm the click before whisking you away.

ALFERNESS: It's just the edges of the ad that start to act as a no man's land of sorts. And that's when we know to prompt user for more.

SIEGEL: Google's Jonathan Alferness says the new ads are a win for advertisers. And yes, he says, they may get less traffic to their sites, but...

ALFERNESS: The rate at which we are converting, that is turning these users into true customers for our advertisers, is increasing because I'm only looking at a set of users who are actually interested in the advertisement.

SIEGEL: And that's not just a win for advertisers, it's a win for all of us and our fat fingers.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.