Android Marketplace gets AT&T billing
Get your apps without paying Google... directly
Google's Android Marketplace has added AT&T to the short list of network operators who'll collect your money on behalf of developers.
In the US, T-Mobile has been offering operator billing for a while, but now that option is also available to AT&T customers who don't want to sign up to Google Checkout just to get an app or two downloaded onto their phone.
Operator billing is important not only because it removes the complexity of signing up to another online account, but it also maintains the network operator as the owner of the customer relationship in a way that Apple (and Microsoft) would not condone. Google is happy to sit in the background and leave the financial stuff to the network operator, who might well be happy as in the role of bit pipe with the additional role of account manager.
Not that Android users can exactly divorce themselves from the chocolate factory just yet - Gmail on mobile still offers a vastly superior experience to the default email client using IMAP, and who could live without the 3D-mapping experience Google offers? Not to mention that existing Android users have already been through the pain of setting up suitable accounts...
But as Android handsets work themselves down towards the lower end of the market, they'll fall into the hands of technically-illiterate users who'll be more reluctant to complicate things, which is when operator billing becomes really important. ®