Android to enable in-app payments before April

Android developer boss Eric Chu has told a conference that Google is working on bringing in-app payments to its smart-phone OS, in a bid to catch up with the iPhone.

Android users can't make  iPhone -style in-app payments yet, but that will change soon. At least, that was the promise from Google's Android group manager, Eric Chu, speaking at a social games conference in San Francisco.

Chu said Android was supposed to get the feature towards the end of last year, but Google couldn't get enough responses from app creators on its plans. "Developers were busy with their Christmas applications, so we couldn't get enough feedback," he said, according to TechCrunch. "Stay tuned."

As you might guess from the last comment, Chu didn't announce a date for the arrival of in-app payments, although he did say the launch would occur in the first quarter of this year. He also said such payments would be able to be made on most current Android devices, rather than requiring the latest 2.3 Gingerbread version of the OS.

On the iPhone, in-app payments have been around for a long time, and have been an important factor in the development of new kinds of apps -- for example, 'freemium' social games like Smurfs' Village, Tap Zoo and Lil' Pirates. Such games are free to download and play, but make their money by charging for items and virtual currency via in-app payments.

Then there are the many magazine and newspaper apps, which let iPhone and iPad owners buy individual issues in-app, or pay a monthly fee to receive daily updates. A Google-backed system of in-app payments will make all this possible on Android, too.

Google isn't the only company playing catch-up with Apple, though. Earlier this month, RIM launched a new version of its BlackBerry App World store, with beta support for in-app payments. And, in September last year, Nokia announced its own in-app-payment plans, using Angry Birds' Mighty Eagle power-up as the case study (for 59p, the Mighty Eagle allows you to complete any level that outfoxes you).

Access to the Mighty Eagle in the Android version of Angry Birds ? This, if nothing else, is a reason for owners of Google-powered smart phones to make merry at Chu's news.

 

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