Sprint is the third U.S. operator to support carrier billing on Android devices according to Google, which had previously worked out billing deals with T-Mobile and AT&T. Sprint customers with Android smartphones or tablets should see the new payment option in the next few days, as Google is rolling it out in phases. The carrier billing option supplements Google’s own Checkout service, which has seen limited success compared to other mobile payment methods.
The addition of support from another mobile operator is welcome, as it becomes easier for Android owners to purchase apps. Instead of setting up a Google Checkout account or having to enter credit card information on the phone, the ability to add purchases to a monthly phone bill is simple. That can help developers sell more software in the Android market, as a recent survey from Strategy Analytics shows that 38 percent of customer prefer carrier billing, and are therefore more apt to make purchases.
Google’s Android Market has more room for improvement though. The Sprint partnership is only the sixth operator deal for Google, which pales in comparison to Nokia’s 112 carrier billing agreements in 36 markets. Application discovery continues to be a challenge, and the occasional malware app can be found in the Market due to Google’s decision to offer less app curation than Apple. And developers can still only sell Android apps in 32 countries, which is limiting the potential audience for software revenues, regardless of the payment method.