Android Market Gets In-App Billing

Android users will soon be able to purchase game and app upgrades from within apps, putting Google in a stronger position to compete against Apple in the booming app market.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant invited developers to test out its in-app purchasing service. Google set up their apps this week, but warned developers wouldn’t be able to publish until next week when the service goes live.

Rolling out in-app purchasing would add a valuable feature to Android apps, helping developers and game makers generate additional profits. With in-app billing, even “free” apps now earn money, with app users buying new features and upgrades directly from the maker. That revenue could be colossal given the over 17 billion app downloads predicted for this year by Gartner.

The monetary rewards could also pull more developer talent onto the platform.

The feature would also bring Android’s marketplace on par with its rival. Apple’s App Store has had in-app billing since October 2009, and many iPhone games use an in-app model. Rovio, the developer of Angry Birds, didn’t wait for Google to deliver the new service. The company had announced its own solution, called “Bad Piggy Bank,” which charges your cell phone account for in-app purchases.

Apple’s updated iOS 4.3 now requires users to enter their passwords before making in-app purchases to prevent accidental buying.

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