SYDNEY: More than one third of Australian smartphone users are open to the idea of receiving ads when they unlock their devices in return for some sort of gain.

According to research company Roy Morgan, 37% of smartphone users over the age of 14 – that's around 5.5m people – would be prepared to trade their attention for cheaper bills or extra data usage.

Lebara Mobile, a Vodafone 3G network reseller, already offers such a deal, having teamed up last October with Unlockd, an app developed by a Melbourne start-up.

Unlockd collects data from a user's device, including device ID, location, time and other contextual factors, in order to personalise the type of ads it shows and when.

Users downloading the app are shown a targeted ad or special offer roughly every third time they unlock their phone. In exchange they can get 2GB of free data or a discount on their phone bill.

Roy Morgan's research, reported by B&T, found that interest was greatest among Dodo smartphone customers, almost half (47%) of whom would like to explore this idea.

But Michele Levine, Roy Morgan CEO, observed that advertisers were unlikely to be attracted by the small reach this offered. She suggested the opportunities were rather greater at some of the larger networks, where interest was also high – at 44% of Vodafone customers, for example, and 40% of those at Optus.

"There are around 1.1m smartphone customers at Vodafone and 1.3m at Optus who could be interested in an ad-supported plan—that's the sort of reach attained by the weeknight news on commercial television networks," she pointed out.

"The future challenge for advertisers and their media agencies using this new, broad-reaching channel will be to achieve accurate and cost-effective targeting—and the only way to do that is to understand the people holding each device," Levine added.

Data sourced from B&T, Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by Warc staff