Google Play's paid app conundrum: It's about the credit cards

Amazon and Apple have the commerce relationship with customers already and Google needs to get it quickly.

Google Play is Google's latest effort to become more intimate with its customers and developers need to monitor the search giant's progress closely. The problem: Google Play has to entice customers to pay for content and apps if developers are going to bring home the revenue.

The launch of Angry Birds Space highlights the issue. The free version of the latest Angry Birds has taken off on Android, but it's ad supported. As a result pesky ads reload, take up screen space and chew up battery life (see report). Many Android customers would be happy to buy a paid version of Angry Birds Space, but may have a major mental block when it's time to enter your credit card data.

My personal experience highlights Google's---and its developers'---conundrum. I bought Angry Birds Space on the Amazon Appstore as well as Apple's iOS. When it came to buying a premium version of Angry Birds on Google Play I paused and kept the free version. Why? I didn't feel like entering my credit card.

Paying for the app in the Amazon and Apple ecosystems was a no brainer. After all, both have my credit card data already. One click and I buy. It's easy. Google's set-up is also easy too, but I have to enter my credit card information. That commerce relationship with Google is nearly foreign for me. I pay for stuff on Google with my data and ads. Frankly, I'm not sure I want that commerce relationship with Google even though I have one already with Apple, Amazon, eBay's PayPal and my wireless carriers.

Related: Why Developers Should Worry About Google PlayApple, Amazon, Facebook, Google leading post-PC banking?Google Play: Google's ultimate answer to Amazon and Apple | CNET: Google Play mulls movie sales | CNET: Google reboots Android Market, launches Google Play | CNET: Google Play: Nice catch-up move. Now what?

Google's ability to cultivate a commerce relationship with its customers is critical to the company and developers. According to Distimo, Apple's App Store for iPad and iPhone handily topped Google's then Android Market in app revenue. Google Play (Android Market) is the free app leader.

Here's the free vs. paid app data from Distimo.

Given my reaction when it was time to link payment information to Google---and I don't think I'm alone---it's no surprise that the company is trying to figure out ways to work with wireless carriers to give Google Wallet a boost.

The data highlights the Google payment issue even in its own Android back yard. Distimo reports that 32 percent of apps on Google Play---formerly Android Market---are paid. On Amazon's Android store, 65 percent of apps are paid.

In other words, developers are likely to move more paid apps on Amazon's market. Developers ultimately will trust Amazon more with their paid app revenue streams.

Google's issue isn't that Android customers won't pay for the apps. The issue is that customers don't have a payment ecosystem set up already with Google in many cases. Google is largely starting from scratch. Amazon and Apple have the commerce relationship and Google needs to get it quickly. If not developers are going to follow the money. And increasingly the paid app money will on venues the search giant doesn't control.

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