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App users in emerging markets get break as Google tweaks pricing

The move addresses currency issues and will lower app costs for people in developing regions who use Android phones.

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Android apps should now have a cheaper price tag across many nations.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Android users in a host of countries may now find reduced prices on some of their favorite apps.

On Tuesday, Google changed the pricing options for software on its app store to make apps more affordable for users in emerging markets, the company said. That means developers now have the ability to lower the price on their premium titles and in-app purchases in several different countries, including Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

As developed markets like the US become more saturated with mobile devices and apps, emerging regions represent fresh and potentially lucrative markets to companies like Google, maker of the Android software that runs many of the world's phones and tablets. But the cost of mobile apps can be higher in developing areas, largely because of currency issues, which means consumers buy fewer apps. To address the situation, Apple already offers a tiered pricing structure that gives developers the freedom to set the minimum cost of an app based on the country.

"Previously, the minimum price for app and in-app purchases was set at 1 US dollar or local equivalents," a Google spokesman said. "In many emerging markets, in particular, this is too high of a minimum price. We received feedback from many global developers that they wanted more flexibility in setting prices in order to increase user engagement and better monetize their apps."

Earlier this year, Mountain View, California-based Google tested a program in India to let developers lower the minimum price tag on apps. Dubbing that a "successful pilot," Google expanded the option to 17 more countries.

"During our initial pilot in India, developers did see a substantial bump in downloads and purchases," the spokesman said. "Unfortunately, we can't share any specific metrics at this time. But with that said, we were happy with the results and decided to expand it to more markets."

For example, developers selling apps in Brazil can set the minimum price to 0.99 Brazilian reals (26 cents) from 2 reals previously. Those selling apps in Mexico can set a minimum price of 5 Mexican pesos (30 cents) from 9.90 previously. And those selling apps in South Africa can set the minimum to 3.99 South African rands (28 cents) from 10 rands previously.

Update, 2 p.m. PT: Adds comments from Google.