In-App carrier billing for Android announced; nobody knows if it’s ‘allowed’ though

Hello Mr Developer, would you like to use in-app payment for Android? Yes? Good.

What’s that?

You want to know if it’s allowed?

Well of course it’s allowed.

What about Google?

Well, they’re … they… they haven’t really said much about it. So when can we get you signed up?

What’s that? You want to know if Google approve of in-app carrier billing?

Why’s that a problem? Can’t you just, look just sign-up and wait and see?

What? What do you mean you can’t do business that way?

Such is the problem with having Google run it’s own mobile platform and not do it properly. I know a lot of companies who are keen to implement in-app billing, but four of them that I spoke to today will not be doing that any time soon because they simply don’t know if it’s ‘real’.

“It’s like a mirage,” said one leading mobile developer to me this afternoon, “We just don’t know if Google will allow it or change their mind in 2 months. We can’t do business like that.”

This is on the back of the rather exciting news that both Zongboku and Boku have announced in-app carrier billing for Android. Zong’s offering supports carrier billing in over 200 countries (reports TechCrunch). Zong’s got 179 carriers in 40+ countries including all the top one and two tiers in the US, (reports Moconews).

I’m pretty impressed with both offerings, I just hope that — at some point — we get a bit of clarity on whether Google well and truly allows in-app payments from other providers, or whether it will demand consumers continue to use it’s own Checkout system.

A little bit of clarity will see a lot of excitement from developers.

If you’re feeling brave, you can get started today with the Alpha Program from Boku.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

3 replies on “In-App carrier billing for Android announced; nobody knows if it’s ‘allowed’ though”

Hi Ewan

In-app billing is allowed on Android outside of the Android Market Place itself and we've been doing this for a couple of months now using our Flexion wrapper.

We provide additional retail options for mobile content so that users can Try & Buy, or rent for a week, or have a one-time usage etc and we announced in February that the Flexion wrapper is now live on the Android platform. I'd be happy to show you a demo of this sometime if you're interested.

Hi Ewan, as long as Google are dependent on distribution from carriers and OEMs then I don't see this as a risk. I think they now understand that distribution is not easy given the relatively low volumes they have achieved on their own for Nexus. You could argue that Apple has managed to keep the billing relationship and still the carriers have been fighting to get their devices but with Android it is a different case and the OEMs and carriers will together be too powerful to manage such a turn in strategy. If Google's intention was to make money from premium content they would have sorted out billing a long time ago. I believe their strategy is more focussed on distribution and advertising revenues so would not be surprised if they let players like Boku and Zong offer their in-app billing to developers. Why have they not officially commented on this topic if it was a sensitive issue?

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