In many cash-intensive developing countries, the onlydigital account balance that many people check daily is their prepaid mobilecarrier account. For many unbanked individuals in Asia, Africa, and SouthAmerica, possessing a bank account is no guarantee of its relevance to dailylife. Bank branches are often too far to access physically and internetconnectivity is often too poor to access bandwidth hogging bank websites. Theirmobile carriers on the other hand will often have a retail agent in the localgrocery store where they can pay cash to top up their accounts. As the cellphone becomes more prominent in their everyday lives, these people are lookingto their carrier to provide them services that one would traditionallyassociate with a bank. The most powerful example of this is M-Pesa in Kenya,which allows for everything from utility bill payments to P2P transfers throughthe mobile carrier.
It’s obvious that Google has grasped this insight as itseeks to increase the relevance of Google Play in the lives of Androidcustomers.
“There’s 26 countries where we offerdirect carrier billing,” he said. “We have 22 countries where we sell GooglePlay gift cards, and we have PayPal payments available in 12 differentcountries.” Carrier billing is an incredibly popular way for paying for gamesand in-app purchases in Asia — although this method also works around theworld. Direct carrier billing is when gamers go into Google Play and buysomething and charge the cost of that item to their phone bill. It doesn’trequire a credit card, and it greatly reduces the payment-process friction.Gift cards and PayPal are also popular alternatives.
“[Payments] is an area where we’veseen improvement and growth,” said Meese. “And it’s an area where we’reinvesting in.”
Meese touched on how its investmentin payments represents a wider trend within Google to improve its tools for thecompanies making games. These include working to provide developers with waysof understanding how consumers use Google Play as well as localizing games forinternational markets.
It will be interesting to see howfar Google goes in extending its payments capabilities beyond games and intoother services that could be monitored and billed through Google Play. Forinstance, why there’s no reason why, say, an Vietnamese electric utilitycouldn’t integrate with Google Play to provide Android users with Bill Payservices.
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