Google’s Android smartphone team announced on Thursday afternoon that it will allow Android app developers to sell items within apps starting next week, the same way iPhone developers have been able to do since 2009.
This opens up a world of possibilities for music and other Android apps, because it means you’ll be able buy extra levels in rhythm games, concert tickets in an artist app, credits towards ad-free listening minutes in interactive radio apps, and so on. Everything from Farmville-style games to remixing apps stands to benefit from Android adding this feature at long last. Developers can start testing in-app purchases now, and can begin distributing apps that use them through Android app stores at some point next week.
Google made a related billing announcement in December: that apps could charge AT&T and T-Mobile customers directly on their phonebills — a more convenient way to pay than whipping out a credit card. In the screenshot Google posted on its blog (above), the user must choose between various credit cards to buy something within an app.
It’s unclear whether developers can charge customers on their cellphone bills for in-app purchases the same way they can for the apps themselves , but we assume that whatever changes Google makes to credit card purchases would apply to these new in-app purchases too.
If that’s the case, in-app purchases — which are already designed to be addictive — could become even more so, due to the frictionless nature of adding a charge to your phone bill.
This would be great news for developers, but just try to tell that to the guy who adds $50 to his monthly phone bill due to extra Angry Birds levels or World Series of Poker Hold ‘Em Legend re-buys.