Android Market Adds Sprint for Direct Carrier Billing

Google said it has added Sprint to its growing list of carrier partners that support direct carrier billing to let Android Market consumers charge apps to their wireless bill.

Google April 13 said it has added Sprint to its lineup of direct carrier billing supporters for the Android Market, leaving Verizon Wireless as the lone U.S. carrier holdout.

Direct carrier billing allows Android phone and tablet owners to charge application purchases they make through the Android Market to their wireless subscriber bill with just a few clicks.

Google added T-Mobile USA and AT&T as direct billing partners in 2010, and has recently launched the service in Japan on KDDI, NTT Docomo and SoftBank.

Now Google and Sprint have begun this roll-out to Sprint Android phone subscribers, staggered between April 7 and April 14, Sprint said on its community forum.

Sprint also said this feature will be available on most Android-based Sprint Android phones, such as the HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Epic 4G but not for the HTC Hero and Samsung Moment.

A Sprint spokesperson told eWEEK that Sprint and Google are exploring the reason that carrier billing is not available on the Hero and Moment.

Make no mistake, direct carrier billing is a vital convenience for Android phone owners who find themselves entering credit card information to buy apps. More payment points also means increased exposure to credit card theft.

Moreover, direct carrier billing offers a convenient way to buy software in underdeveloped regions where credit cards are less common, said Eric Chu, a Google Android Developer ecosystem advocate.

Chu also promised additional direct carrier billing options in the coming months.

"We are continuing to partner with more carriers around the world to offer carrier billing options to their subscribers," Chu said.

Presumably, that includes Europe, where Google has no such arrangements. The one carrier people in the United States will be watching closely will be Verizon Wireless, whose Droid smartphones and $100 million marketing efforts effectively put Android on the map and helped propel it to 33 percent U.S. market share.

To be sure, Verizon would appear to be an obvious choice, but the carrier also declared a bit of war versus the Android Market in launching its own V Cast App Store for Android last September.