May 5, 2012

Google Play Users Can Now Charge Downloads To Their Phone Bills

Some users of the Google Play digital multimedia content service can now purchase apps, music, movies and more and have the cost of those downloads added directly to their monthly phone bills, the Mountain View, California-based technology giant announced on Wednesday.

The company, which unveiled the new policy in a Google+ Post dated May 2, said that this week they had "expanded" their service to include all types of content available through the service, and that American T-Mobile customers and Japanese DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank subscribers would now be able to take advantage of the payment plan.

"This allows a customer to charge purchases directly to their wireless account rather than using a credit card. It's convenient, especially for users who don't have a credit card, but the side effect is possible bill shock if spending gets too far out of hand (and it's easy)," Kevin Parrish of the website Tom's Guide wrote on Thursday.

"Media companies see the phone bill as the promised land. Phone bills already come loaded with such an impenetrable array of confusing surcharges, fees, and taxes that the hope is consumers won't notice much if they add one more," added CNET's Greg Sandoval. "Critics say that the phone bill is quickly becoming a Trojan horse for clever marketers to thrust new charges on to customers. Google is doing all it can to boost the profitability of Google Play, which, in its Android Market form, struggled to generate revenue."

Currently, in the U.S., AT&T, Sprint, and now T-Mobile allow direct carrier billing, as do T-Mobile International in Germany and the UK; Vodafone in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK; Docomo, KDDI, Softbank in Japan; and KT, SKT, and LGU+ in Korea.

"Verizon will likely never provide this option, as the company wants subscribers to use its own services to purchase apps and other content that does allow direct billing," Parrish said. "Unfortunately, Verizon isn't on top of keeping its Android apps up to date“¦ Currently Verizon customers are forced to download outdated subscription-based services like Rdio and Slacker Radio through V Cast Apps if they want to use carrier billing."

A Google spokesperson told CNET that she "doesn't believe" there will be any additional charge for customers opting to use the carrier billing services.


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