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Verizon to close mobile app store, disappointing few

Apps to go dark by January 2013 or sooner

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Leading US mobile carrier Verizon Wireless has announced that it will shutter its app store for Android and BlackBerry devices in January 2013, ending a three-year experiment that went all but unnoticed by most customers.

Verizon first unveiled its apps marketplace in March 2010 under the name VCast App Store, and although it later revised the name to the much simpler Verizon Apps, it still never really caught on.

Under the terms of Verizon's store, developers could market apps to users of Android and BlackBerry handsets on the carrier's network and keep 70 per cent of the proceeds, with Verizon skimming the other 30 per cent.

But that split was about the same as what other app stores were already offering, and for most developers, selling their apps through a carrier-specific store was an unnecessary effort, given that the existing app ecosystems were already well entrenched on their respective platforms.

As Verizon itself admits in its statement announcing the impending closure of its store, "Most apps existing on Verizon Apps are already available on multiple app storefronts, such as Google Play, Amazon, and BlackBerry App World."

What's more, in October Google announced that customers would soon be able to pay for app purchases from the Google Play store directly on their wireless bill, a feature that was previously only available to Verizon Apps customers.

With Verizon Apps unable to offer any clear advantage over its competition to either developers or customers, it seems only natural that the carrier would opt to mothball it. But the pace with which Verizon plans to shutter its service may surprise some devs.

According to the announcement, Verizon will begin the process of removing the Verizon Apps application from Android and BlackBerry devices as soon as January 2013, and it says it anticipates completing the process by March 27.

Once the storefront is removed, not only will customers no longer be able to purchase new apps from Verizon's store, but any apps that require a monthly license check – including subscription- and usage-based apps, as well as all in-app purchased content – will cease to function.

To avoid customer confusion, Verizon says it will begin removing such apps from its catalog early in the process of the shutdown.

Subscription-based apps will likely go dark even sooner than that, however. Final billing will occur in November, with customers being able to purchase one more month of service before all subscriptions are suspended. Customers' subscriptions will then expire automatically on their regular renewal dates in December.

The exceptions to Verizon's shutdown are enterprise apps that are sold and deployed via Verizon's Private Applications Store for Business. According to the carrier, these will still be available for purchase after the Verizon Apps cutoff date.

During the shutdown process, Verizon says developers will still have access to metrics and reporting for their apps, and the Verizon Developer Community portal will remain open as a resource for Verizon tools, platforms, and APIs even after the Verizon Apps store closes.

Just what would inspire developers to visit there is not wholly clear. But Verizon says it will soon be introducing "new merchandising strategies" that will help Android developers get their apps discovered by "millions of Verizon customers" – customers that, presumably, will be doing their app discovery at the Google Play store from now on. ®

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