Google Play adds carrier billing for digital content

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is expanding the direct carrier billing options available across its Play multimedia storefront to include digital content like music, movies and e-books. Google Play already supports carrier billing for Android applications.

Because Google must strike billing deals with each individual operator partner, the expanded Google Play carrier billing is currently limited to T-Mobile USA and Japanese carriers NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank. Google adds that Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) subscribers will soon be able to charge multimedia purchases to their monthly bill as well.

Google Play launched in March 2012, replacing Google's Android Market with a more expansive digital content marketplace in the mold of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes, which includes the App Store for iOS. All content purchased through Google Play is cloud-based, enabling users to access their apps, music, movies and e-books across multiple devices and locations.

Content providers have struggled to make money in Google Play: Last month, app store analytics firm Flurry reported that for every $1 generated by Apple's App Store, Google Play yields an average of $0.23 per user. The Amazon Appstore for Android, which also offers apps and media for Android devices, generates an average of $0.89 per user.

Flurry credits Amazon Appstore's success to the company's digital retail expertise, noting that Google's strengths are its search tools and advertising technologies. "Based on revenue potential, we expect to see an increasing number of developers support Amazon," writes Flurry Vice President of Marketing Peter Farago on the firm's blog. "Google will need to reduce commerce friction to maintain strong developer support."

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