Carriers lay claim on Android Market

Guillermo Escofet/Informa Telecom & Media
19 Sep 2011
The relationship between operators and Android Market is getting closer. Not only is carrier billing featuring much more prominently on the application store, but so are operator storefronts.
In July we heard that Vodafone was launching its own content channel within Android Market in the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal following later. Then in August, Vodafone announced that it would be enabling payments on Android Market across its European footprint, starting with the UK and Germany.
Vodafone is not alone. US carriers Verizon and T-Mobile and South Korean carrier SK Telecom are all offering both payments and their own storefront on Android Market. Others are offering just payments, including the US’ AT&T Mobility and Sprint and Japan’s KDDI and Softbank, and others, such as Australia’s Telstra, just a storefront. Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo, meanwhile, is offering payments and has its own separate Android apps store.
The open-source nature of Google’s Android ecosystem means that operators have always had a greater chance of playing a role than in Apple’s walled-garden iOS ecosystem. Operators have been able to order own-brand, custom-made Android handsets from manufacturers and launch their own Android application offerings. They either launch a separate Android apps store, parallel to Google’s Android Market, the way many Android-handset makers have done (see for example Samsung’s launch this week of its Premium Samsung Apps Store for Android in the UK). Or they launch a storefront within Android Market itself.
The latter is only possible on Android handsets distributed by operators. Usually, the way it works is that the “My Apps” tab that appears on Android Market’s user interface is replaced with the operator’s storefront tab – or “content channel” tab, to use the Android parlance.
Operators believe that their channel adds value by offering a more select set of apps, tested for quality and adapted to local needs – rather than what they would describe as the daunting and hit-and-miss choice available in the main store, which is crammed with hundreds of thousands of apps. In other words, they see themselves as offering quality over quantity.


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