It looks like Apple is quietly investigating some new methods of payments in the iTunes and App Stores in a move to bring users into the fold that either don’t have a credit card to add to their accounts or have one, but don’t want to add it.
Going forward, iTunes users in Taiwan and Switzerland will now have the option of paying for apps, books (Switzerland only, Apple doesn’t sell books in Taiwan) and music through their phone bills. Well, if they have the right carrier anyway. Thus far Taiwanese users can only use EasTone – since they are the only carrier that has signed on. EasTone is an old hat at carrier billing – it already offers it through Apple competitors Google and Windows.
The Swiss provider is widely expected to be Swisscom – which again is already running carrier billing programs for Google and Windows.
Apple already provides carrier billing services in Germany and Russia – bringing Apple’s global total to four. Apple started carrier billing in Germany in October last year in partnership with O2/Telefonica there; it then moved toward expanding into Russia last December. Taiwan makes Apple’s first entry into Asian carrier billing.
And Asia is the market where it makes the most sense to add it – though credit card penetration is up in the far east, adoption is still lagging, meaning phone carriers are additionally important to the equation and increasingly open to carrier billing.
Google has more fully embraced carrier billing than Apple – and has carrier billing in some huge Asian markets like India and Indonesia, where credit card penetration is almost non-existent. As of this May, the number of people who have bought apps or made in-app purchases has quadrupled in the year since it launched phone billing in March 2015.
Apple has no official comment on this news as of yet.