Google to expand Android Market payment options

T-Mobile will soon allow customers to charge Android Market purchases directly to their phone bill.

Google Checkout is the only payment option for Android users. Taylor Wimberly

Google and T-Mobile held a joint news conference last week to discuss their upcoming promotion for the new Google Android-powered MyTouch 3G phone. While the code names of upcoming Android updates like Eclair and Flan were an obvious focus of the conference, I found the most important revelation to be the expansion of payment methods for Android Market.

Thanks to a coming update, Google Checkout will now support multiple billing systems and T-Mobile customers will be able to charge purchases directly to their monthly bill. Also, while the sign-up process for Google Checkout is not difficult, removing it is one less barrier to a potential purchase.

Google Checkout has been the only payment option since the Android Market first launched paid applications. Despite a few initial download glitches related to credit card authorization, the service has performed relatively well since. Purchases are easily completed in seconds and instant refunds are available during the first 24 hours.

The new payment methods also address a larger concern of other U.S. cell phone carriers who believed Android was too Google-centric. With the update, new Android device users could use their carrier account for application billing instead of Google Checkout.

It will be interesting to see what other billing systems make their way to Android next. Open Handset Alliance member eBay owns payment gateway PayPal, which has released an official client on the Android Market. Google also has close ties with Amazon that could offer payment services through its accounts.

Hopefully, the willingness to open the payment options will lead the way for a more open Market environment. Google could easily create a developer API and allow different companies to display the Market information in new ways. I would love to see what the Amazon recommendation engine could do for application discovery. A referral program could be created to reward the reseller and Google would benefit from the increased units sold.

It has been months since we witnessed any updates to the Android market client, so any news is welcome. After payment options have been expanded, Google should be able to focus more on the front end of the Market and a better user experience. There is no launch date for the new features, but keep an eye on late August when the Android Developers Challenge begins.