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Mobile payment service Zong expands to subscriptions

Still in a close rivalry with competitor Boku, Zong has partnered with two subscription services so that members can bill their payments to their cell phone bills.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy

Mobile payment start-up Zong is extending its product to include subscription-based services, the company announced Tuesday.

Gaming site OMGPOP and News Corp.-owned photo-sharing site Photobucket have signed on as launch partners.

So here's what this means: instead of entering credit card billing information, subscribers to OMGPOP and Photobucket can bill their subscriptions directly to their phone bills by entering their cell phone numbers and then responding to a confirmation code. Previously, the Zong service could only be used for one-at-a-time micropayments rather than subscription-based services.

With Zong's new development, which is currently available only on U.S. carriers (and ideally international ones soon, the company said), it can process monthly subscription payments of up to $9.99. Bigger transactions are tougher because of the company's complicated relationships with cell phone carriers.

Opening up its mobile payments to subscription services may give Zong an advantage in its close rivalry with Boku, another start-up offering a very similar pay-by-mobile-number service. The two have taken slightly different approaches to carrier relations, which gave Boku a bigger global reach at its launch--and it's continued to grow fast.

Zong, meanwhile, says that more than 10 million unique users have used the service to process payments so far.