Vodafone First To Charge Android Apps To Phone Bills

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Vodafone’s Android users can now charge app purchases direct to their phone bill

Vodafone is the first operator in Europe to allow customers to charge Android app purchases straight to their phone bill, the operator has announced.

Operator billing, which Vodafone says will give app developers direct access to millions more Android users, is being rolled out in the UK and Germany now.

Opening up the market to customers apprehensive about giving credit card details to third parties or younger users without credit cards, is a significant boost to the platform’s revenue potential.

Vodafone wrote on its developer blog that customers unwilling or unable to use credit cards can account for more than 90 percent of the potential market in some countries.

“This evolution in Android app payment greatly improves the user’s purchase experience and consequently their likelihood of completing a sale,” the company wrote.

Initially the service will only be available to users who have purchased devices through Vodafone online and retail channels, before expanding the facility to all handsets.

World’s biggest

Android is now the most popular smartphone OS on the planet, with some analysts estimating that it is approaching 50 percent market share.

And analysts are also backing apps for smartphones and tablets to become a huge business in the coming years.

Canalys predicted that $14.1 billion (around £8.5bn) of direct revenue would be generated from app sales, in-app purchases and subscriptions across smartphones and tablets. By 2015 it is reckoning on that figure more than doubling to $36.7bn (around £22bn).

It is unlikely iPhone users will be given the choice of charging app purchases to their phone bill. Apple, Android’s biggest competitor in the smartphone OS and apps space, heavily regulates its App Store and makes a fortune taking a 30 percent cut of app sales and in-app purchases.

The onerous terms of doing business through Apple have already proved too much for some, with big names such as The Financial Times, Amazon and Walmart developing browser-based mobile apps to circumvent Apple and retain all of the revenue generated from mobile users.

Meanwhile, a survey released last week by Nielsen Smartphone Analytics found that, out of the hundreds of thousands of available apps,  Android smartphone users spend almost half their time using the same ten applications.

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