Google, Sprint partner on carrier billing for digital content

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Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) subscribers may now charge all Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play multimedia purchases including music, movies and e-books directly to their monthly wireless bill.

Google first expanded the Play storefront's carrier billing capabilities earlier this month, announcing digital content billing partnerships with T-Mobile USA and Japanese carriers NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank. The store, previously known as Android Market, has long supported carrier billing for Android applications.

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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