Following the lead of one of its parent companies, Verizon Wireless is preparing to launch an Android app store under its V Cast label.
More information about the launch will become available next week at the company’s developer conference, Verizon spokesperson Debi Lewis said, but she added it’s been in the works since the company opened the V Cast store in June with apps for Verizon’s Blackberry products.
Verizon has also had a channel on the Android Marketplace for carrier-branded apps, Lewis told LinuxInsider.
Following Vodafone’s Lead
Verizon’s Android app store will follow one announced in June by European carrier Vodafone, which owns nearly half of Verizon Wireless. The 360 Shop for Android marries application purchasing with Vodafone’s suite of “360”-branded services, including contacts, gaming and music. The store remains in a beta phase, according to Vodafone’s Web site.
Like the Vodafone service, Verizon’s app store will allow Android handset owners to purchase apps by billing them to their wireless bills, a potential advantage over the sometimes cumbersome purchasing process for the official marketplace, ABI Research senior analyst Mark Beccue told LinuxInsider.
“That can attract developers, and consumers like it better,” he said.
App Store Boom
Unlike Apple’s iOS, which powers the iPhone and iPad and which limit users to its official App Store, the Android operating system allows for phones to access multiple app stores. That’s led to a minor boom in independent Android app stores seeking to improve on aspects of the official Android Market.
Both Beccue and IDC analyst Al Hilwa said they think Verizon’s effort is in part about what Beccue calls “mindshare” — getting consumers to think of Verizon as something more than the mere pipe through which they get the cool apps they use on their Android phones.
Among other things, Verizon intends to carefully vet apps submitted through the store for quality. A note on the company’s developer site soliciting submissions notes that apps will go through a “detailed evaluation and approval process prior to launch.”
The move strikes Hilwa as a bit of a desperate play by Verizon to regain some of the relevance carriers had before applications became the apple of the mobile world’s eye.
“I think it’s going to be very challenging to muscle back into that,” he said
Also, the approach may heighten the walled garden approach favored by Apple, said Beccue, in which a single entity — in this case, the carrier — tightly controls which applications users can access.
That notion was rejected by Lewis, who said Verizon customers will have access to apps from both its store and the original Android marketplace.
“Our goal is to provide customer choice, not to prevent anything,” she said.
Strained relationship with Google?
While some commentators have suggested that Verizon’s move could strain the carrier’s tight partnership with Google and Android, especially after the carrier’s decision to give Microsoft’s Bing search engine greater prominence on some its phones, Beccue said he doubts Google is terribly troubled by Verizon’s decision.
Verizon’s app store likely carries some form of Google blessing, Beccue said, and will likely net the company some small percentage of revenue from sales, he said.
What Google is really interested in, he said, is extending its dominance in search through mobile handsets.
“The rest is gravy,” he said.
Google didn’t have any comment on Verizon’s activities.
The Verizon Developer Community Conference 2010, at which Verizon is expected to announce more details regarding the Android app store, begins Sept. 21 in Las Vegas. The opening conference will be webcast, according to Lewis.