FTC files charges against T-Mobile for fraudulent SMS charges

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T-Mobile’s Uncarrier Plan is now looking eerily like all other phone carriers – full of deceit. The latest FTC charges against the mobile carrier alleges that the company is guilty of mobile cramming: placing unauthorized charges onto customer’s phone bills. It’s possible that the company has made millions if not hundreds of millions by collecting as much as 40% off of these invalid, third party charges.   (more…)

Guest Post: Top 3 benefits of offering mobile payments

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Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog comes from SecureKey’s Executive Vice President of Marketing, Andre Boysen, who is responsible for cultivating new and exciting opportunities in existing markets for the company. 

There’s little denying that smartphones have become a staple in many people’s lives. They offer instant access to restaurant reviews, movie ticket reservations, social media and even, on occasion, calling up friends and family. Mobile phones have also taken the place of certain equipment like alarm clocks, watches and music players. These devices perform numerous tasks and their reach is bound to expand as the technology improves. Soon enough, many people will also be using their smartphones to complete transactions both online and in-person, and businesses should prepare for this change in buying habits. Below are three of the reasons you should consider making this move now, rather than later.  (more…)

US mobile commerce to become $235 million market in 2013, slow to adopt mobile consumer payments

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According to technology research firm, Gartner, mobile commerce will see a 44 percent increase globally, reaching $235 billion this year. These increases will only continue, forecasting a $721 billion market with 450 million mobile commerce users by 2017. This figure includes transactions such as bill payments, money transfers and consumer payments.

Though mobile payments are expect to reach significant growth in the coming years, users have been slow to adopt mobile consumer payments. Starbucks is the only company that has found significant success. The international coffee supplier saw nearly $500 million worth of mobile transactions in the last year according to Berg Insight. (more…)

App Annie takes an-depth look at the mobile app economy in Japan

App store analytics company App Annie today took an in-depth look at Japan, analyzing the Japanese mobile industry, the state of the platforms in the country and the companies, app genres and apps dominating the Japanese market.Japan flag

In October 2012, Japan surpassed the U.S. in revenue on Google Play, becoming the most lucrative country for the Android platform, with 29 percent of the app store’s total global revenue.

Before Japan surpassed the U.S. as the leader in terms of revenue on Google Play, the country was actually late to the smartphone party, with smartphones taking only a 23 percent share of the handset market share at the end of 2011.

In Japan, the mobile market is dominated by three wireless carriers — NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and SoftBank. Traditionally, these companies have been the gatekeepers of content, but since the debut of the iOS and Android app store ecosystems, the top three wireless carriers are seeing its control over content change hands to the iOS and Android mobile platforms. This is why feature phones held on for so long in the country while smartphones blossomed in other regions, because the wireless carriers could restrict access to content and have influence over device manufacturers.

The No. 1 wireless carrier, NTT DoCoMo, doesn’t carry Apple products because it can’t control the sale of content from the Apple iTunes Store. Instead, NTT DoCoMo put its chips on Android and also built its own carrier stores to continue to maintain control on content that flows through its wireless network. For example, “dmenu” is a portal for accessing internet-based content, and “dmarket” is a market offering videos, music, books and apps.

On the other hand, the No. 2 and 3 wireless carriers, KDDI and Softbank, offer the iPhone, enabling Japanese consumers to buy content through the Apple iTunes Store instead of through the wireless carrier. The move to carry Apple products in turn has boosted the subscriber rate for both KDDI and Softbank, while NTT DoCoMo is now losing more subscribers than the competition, which leaves hope for KDDI or Softbank to overtake NTT DoCoMo as the wireless carrier leader in Japan.App Annie iOS Google Play Japan revenues

All the happenings in the Japanese wireless carrier industry led to Android holding two-thirds of the Japanese smartphone market share, while iPhone has the other third. Despite Android’s handset market share, the Apple iTunes Store generates far more revenue than Google Play, although Google Play has been catching up over 2012. A trend seen in other regions as well.

App Annie also analyzed the top 20 iOS publishers in Japan by revenue from January 2012 to September 2012, finding that 18 of the top 20 publishers are gaming companies. The 20 publishers combine for more than half of the total value of all grossing content, with the top five publishers representing nearly one-third of all revenues. Also, Japanese companies dominate the chart, with only South Korean NHN, developer of LINE, French game developer Gameloft and Apple as the lone Western companies in the top 20. Publishers with deep pockets and market dominance in other regions such as Electronic Arts, Zynga, and Rovio, aren’t even in the top 20, which demonstrates the difficulty for Western companies to excel in the Japanese gaming market.App Annie Top 20 iOS publishers Japan

The games genre, to no one’s surprise, crushes the other app genres in revenue, with 77 percent of total revenues across all categories. The gaming category is the leader in revenue in other regions as well — the U.S. at 59 percent — but the category is not as dominate as the category is in Japan. GungHo Online’s Puzzle & Dragons, which recently reached the seven million user mark, is an example of a native mobile game for smartphones that’s leading the way for the gaming genre in Japan, demolishing the competition in terms of revenue.App Annie top 10 iPhone categories Japan

Aside from games, social networking is a genre worth noting. iOS revenues for social networking apps grew 383 percent when App Annie compared its January 2012 versus its September 2012 data. Messaging app Line, which recently reached 100 million users, was the leading app in the social networking genre by revenue over a 12-month period ending in September 2012.App Annie top 10 iPhone social networking apps

Square Registers for sale at Starbucks, pushing virtual sales to physical stores

Starbucks announced that Square Register devices will be on sale at 7,000 coffee locations. Starbucks is the latest place where the e-commerce gadget is available alongside Walgreens, Target and other stores.

 

Like the other locations, Square is actually charging $9.99 for the device with the list price credited to the user’s Square account. In other words, it is free as long as the user follows through with the purchase and follows through with Square. Users have been able to order Square devices for free online since the startup’s launch.

It is a great move for Square as Starbucks is the first natural brick-and-mortar fit for small, mobile purchases. Other retail outfits are either all-purpose big box stores, like the aforementioned Target, or tech-focused chains like Radio Shack and Best Buy.

To Starbucks advantage, any business deals are made over coffee, so entrepreneurs will have an easier time joining Square for an unexpected sale. More broadly, if a person is buying coffee for a group of people, he or she could get paid back via the device.

This will probably be the first of many physical space moves Square will make in 2013. Just last month it launched a gift card program for users to send or to redeem within Square.

Mobile App Roundup: iPhone 5 sales, AdWords and a Chinese challenger for Android

Analysts predict over 10 million iPhone 5 Sales for Sept. — Topeka Capital Market analyst Brian White has predicted Apple will sell somewhere between 10 and 12 million new iPhone 5s in September reports VentureBeat. With the iPhone launching on Sept. 21, that will mean between 1.1 and 1.3 million iPhones will leave stores every day.

Google adds new app promotion options to AdWords — Google has added new features to its AdWords advertising service designed specifically for app promotion. Advertisers can now bid based on a cost per acquisition basis. Text ads have also been revamped, allowing advertisers to be updated automatically with information from user reviews and rates.

iPhone 5 pre-order sells out in one hour – U.S. pre-orders for the new iPhone 5 sold out in just 60 minutes reports TechCrunch. The iPhone 4S sold out of its pre-order stock in 22 hours.

China’s Alibaba investing challenge Android — Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has announced it is willing to spend $158 million per year to fund the development of its Linux-based smartphone OS Aliyun. As Tech in Asia reports, the company is largely looking to take OS market share from Android, which it feels handles mobile cloud computing poorly.

Microsoft revamps app store –Microsoft has renamed the Windows Phone Marketplace, changing the service’s name to the Windows Phone Store. The company has also redesigned the store, emphasizing app discovery and improving its search capabilities, reports The AppSide.

Unicom: China will have iPhone 5 in three months – Chinese cellular provider China Unicom has revealed the iPhone 5 will be available on its network within three months, according to The Next Web.

Toys ‘R’ Us announced kid friendly tabeo Tablet — The giant toys retailer announced that it will release tablet focused on content for kids and safety features desired by parents. The tablet will be sold for $149.99 starting Oct. 21.

630K+ devices reading The Economist — Popular magazine The Economist has released new figures detailing the reach of its digital footprint. According to the magazine, 631,967 unique devices opened its app in June.

Dwolla, LevelUp payments coming to Shopkeep – iPad POS system ShopKeep will soon take payments from Dwolla and LevelUp customers. Consumers using the services will be able to use their mobile phones to complete purchases with any merchant using ShopKeep.

Free Wi-Fi coming to Android — Google Play is teaming up with Boingo to sponsor free Wi-Fi at airports and New York City subway stations during September reports VentureBeat. The Wi-Fi will only be available for Android-based devices and smartphones.

Wikipad Android gaming tablet coming in October — Android based tablet the Wikipad has revealed it will launch in October and retail for $499. It will be available exclusively at Gamestop.

[Launch] Run Roo Run hops to iPad — 5th Cell’s popular auto-runner Run Roo Run is now available on iPad. The app is also currently being featured as the App Store’s Free App of the Week.

[Launch] DeNA brings Blood Brother to iOS – DeNA’s fantasy RPG Blood Brothers is no longer an Android exclusive. The company announced this week it has brought the title to iOS.

[Launch] DoubleDutch launches Hive — Productivity app maker DoubleDutch has released its latest product, workgroup collaboration app Hive. The mobile CRM app is available on both iOS and Android.

[Launch] FunMobility unveils Mobile Retail Rewards — Mobile marketing firm FunMobility has launched a new product called Mobile Retail Rewards. The solution is designed to help businesses start their own location-based rewards program.

Mobile app news roundup: PayPal, Sony, GREE and Amazon

PayPal partners with Discover — Consumers will soon be able to use PayPal for physical transactions at more than 7 million new U.S. locations reports AllThingsD. According to a new deal signed with Discover, starting in April 2013 merchants that accept Discover payments will allow customers to pay with their PayPal charge cards, or by entering their phone number and PayPal pin number.

GREE signs up four new developers — SkyVu Entertainment, InfiniDy, Oceanside Interactive and Gamenauts are the latest developers to sign up for GREE’s new global mobile-social gaming platform.

Sony restructures mobile business — Sony has announced it will move the headquarters of its mobile phone business from Sweden to Japan. As part of the move, Sony will lay off more than 1000 division staff over the next two years. Sony’s mobile division makes Android powered smartphones.

Braintree acquires Venmo — Social payment app Venmo has been acquired by mobile and online payment solution provider Braintree for $26.2 million in cash and stock, according to the company’s Crunchbase profile.

Amazon calls for promotional app artwork – Amazon has called on its mobile development community to send in promotional artwork for their apps. According to an Amazon email, promotional images must be 1024 x 500 pixels, and will be used in featured placements.

GREE moves into merchandising – GREE has announced it is setting up a subsidiary to handle merchandising. According to Dr. Serktan Toto, the new company will be called GREE Entertainment Products, and will produce physical goods based on its mobile-social games.

Square Enix ports The World Ends with You – Square Enix is bringing its 2008 Nintendo DS role-playing game The World Ends with You to iOS. The company’s teaser countdown references the Japanese version of the game, but it is likely the game will come to iOS in English as well.

Chinese smartphone user distribution revealed — Chinese company Umeng has released a series of maps that outline Android and iOS smartphone penetration in China, reports Tech in Asia, which has the english translation of the data. According to Umeng, Android  and iOS devices are most popular in the coastal province of Guangdong, accounting for 16.5 and 12.5 of the country’s total share.

DeNA signs up Axel Mark — DeNA has signed a deal with Tokyo-based social game developer Axel Mark to bring the company’s games to North America via DeNA’s Mobage platform, reports Dr. Serktan Toto.

[Launch] Nukotoys releases mobile app powered trading cards — California-based Nukotoys has announced it is releasing two lines of collectible cards that are designed to be used in conjunction with a smartphone app. When used with the accompanying free app, the cards “come to life” as 3D in-game creatures.

[Launch] Gameloft touches down with Cosmic Colony – Gameloft’s latest casual free-to-play title Cosmic Colony has been released for iOS and Android. The game combines citybuilding with exploration.

[Launch] Fantasica debuts on Mobage — Silicon Studio has released an English version of its game Fantasica on iOS and Android through DeNA’s Mobage platform. The game, which features illustrations from Final Fantasy staffer Hideo Minaba is a hybrid role-playing game/tower defense/card-battle game.

[Launch] Dragon Collection comes to Canadian app store – Konami’s top grossing Japanese hit Dragon’s Collection is heading to North America, and is already live on the Canadian App Store. As industry watcher Dr. Serkan Toto notes, the card-battle game is the top-grossing third party game on GREE’s platform.

[Funding] Revel Touch nabs $10 million — Merchandising software creator Revel Touch has landed $10 million in funding from Foundation Capital and Lightspeed Ventures reports TechCrunch. The company’s software is designed to help retailers create better mobile shopping apps

[Funding] Discovery Bay Games raises $15 million – iOS accessory maker Discovery Bay has raised a $15 million Series B round of funding. The round was lead by Trilogy Equity Partners and Logitech, and will be used to further fund the company’s line of physical accessories for iOS devices.

 

TV Guide launches iOS app — The long running publication launched an iOS app which allows users to create a watch list of their favorite shows and find links to streaming services like ABC, HBO Go, Crackle and more.

Taptica releases cross promotion platform Appear Exchange — User acquisition based mobile network Taptica today announced the release of Appear Exchange, a free mobile based  platform which allows developers to cross-promote other iOS and Android apps on their available and currently unused ad space.

Nexon’s Cloudstone updated with more content, available on Kongregate — Nexon’s point-and-click action role-playing game Cloudstone has been updated with a large new map to explore, a level cap raised to 40 and a new PvP season. Players can now also play Cloudstone on the free online games portal, Kongregate.

Square partners with Starbucks, gets $25M in funding, major distribution deal

Mobile payments processor Square has announced a new partnership with Starbucks that will see the company take on responsibility for processing all credit and debit card transactions at corporate-owned Starbucks in the U.S.

Starting this fall, consumers will now be able to pay with the Square mobile app at more than 7,000 Starbucks locations. Additionally, Starbucks is also investing $25 million into Square’s Series D round and Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s board of directors.

Although Starbucks is not phasing out the use of its own mobile app, which also allows consumers to pay directly from their mobile phones, Square still benefits — the company’s Square Directory (a listing of local businesses that also accept Square payments) will eventually be integrated into the Starbucks mobile payment app.

The partnership is big win for Square. Although the service is popular with local merchants and speciality retailers, until today, Square hadn’t been able to set itself up with a major retailer that would help it penetrate into mainstream payment processing. Today’s announcement not only gives Square access to an enormous new market, it also helps it diversify its offerings, since the company will be handling all of Starbuck’s payments, not just mobile ones.

The deal is also good news for the startup in light of PayPal’s moves to get into the physical payment market.  In February PayPal announced it had signed a deal with Home Depot that would allow customers in almost 2,000 of the chain’s U.S. stores to pay with PayPal, either via a PayPal card, or by using a combination of their mobile phone number and a PIN.

Google tweaks policy, all Google Play apps must use Google’s payment system

It appears Google is finally putting its foot down when it comes to third-party payment processing in its official app store — the company has sent out an email to Android developers outlining several updates to the Google Play program policy, including a small but significant update to its payment policies.

“We’re making it explicit for applications and in-app purchases that developers are required to use the Google Play payment system,” said Chris Yerga, engineering director for Google Play when asked about the changes.

Although Yerga points out that Google will still make exceptions for apps that sell physical goods or services such as movie tickets, developers of most apps will now have to use Google’s official channels, rather than alternative payment providers like PayPal, Boku or BoxPay.

Developers will have 30 days to bring their existing apps into compliance, but new applications submitted to Google Play will be subject to Google’s new policies immediately. Apps that don’t comply will be subject to removal from the Google Play store, just like any other app that Google finds to be in violation of its terms of service, says Yerga.

Although Google has always mandated the use of its official Google Wallet payment system, the company hasn’t always been strict about enforcing the policy.

“We actually have been enforcing our payments around payments historically, but there’s been certain exceptions,” explains Yerga. “Before we had subscriptions, if someone was dependent on an application that required subscriptions, we were a little more lenient. Here we want to make things explicit about what’s included and what’s not included. The baseline default is we require applications to use the Google payment system.”

Today’s announcement isn’t likely to surprise many Android developers. Reuters reported Google was looking to take a more strict approach to enforcing payment standard back in March, stating several developers had been warned about their continued use of third-party payment providers. At the time Google denied the report, telling TechCrunch it hadn’t changed its policies, and saying the whole story was a “non-starter.”

The full text of today’s email to developers is below.

Hello Google Play Developer,

We are constantly striving to make Google Play a great community for developers and consumers. This requires us to update our policies when we launch new features, like subscription billing, and also when we see unhealthy behavior, like deceptive app names and spammy notifications. This email is to notify you that we’ve made some changes to our policies which are highlighted below.

 

  • We’ve added clearer details to the payment policy, and guidelines on how we will handle cancellations in our new subscription billing feature
  • We are restricting the use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps in order to reduce user confusion
  • We are providing more detail on the kinds of dangerous products that are not allowed on Google Play. For example, apps that disclose personal information without authorization are not allowed.
  • We are giving more examples of practices that violate the spam policy.

Additionally, we are adding a new section that addresses ad behavior in apps. First, we make it clear that ads in your app must follow the same rules as the app itself. Also, it is important to us that ads don’t negatively affect the experience by deceiving consumers or using disruptive behavior such as obstructing access to apps and interfering with other ads.

 

Please take a look at the Google Play Developer Program Policy to see all the changes and make sure your app complies with our updated policies.

 

Any new apps or app updates published after this notification will be immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy.  If you find any existing apps in your catalog that don’t comply, we ask you to fix and republish the application within 30 calendar days of receiving this email.  After this period, existing applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.

 

Regards,

Google Play Team

Amazon simplifies revenue split from paid apps, drops two-tiered system

Amazon is simplifying how it shares revenue with developers of paid apps in its store. As of July 1, developers will earn 70 percent of the list price of every paid app sold in the Amazon Appstore.

The move brings Amazon’s payments policy in line with the 70/30 revenue split it earns on in-app purchases, and matches the rates developers get in Google Play and the iTunes App Store.

Previously Amazon spit the revenue for paid apps in one of two ways — developers would either earn 70 percent of the sale price of an app, or 20 percent of their requested price, whichever was higher.

Although the original pricing terms were positioned as a way for developers to still earn revenue if Amazon put their app on sale or made it free as part of a promotion, the policy was not without its critics. In April 2011 the International Game Developers Association warned its members against selling their apps with Amazon, arguing that the two-tiered pricing structure was designed to attract consumers at the expense of developers. Later that year Australian developer Shify Jelly reported Amazon did not pay out the promised 20 percent share of their app’s original asking price when the app was made free as part of the Amazon Appstore’s Free App of the Day program.

According to Amazon’s updated Mobile App Distribution Agreement, the company does not pay developers any royalty share if the price of an app is $0.00, which means developers won’t earn anything if their apps are featured as a Free App of the Day. However, under the new terms it appears developers will still earn 70 percent of an app’s original list price if Amazon decides to discount the app. We’ve reached out to Amazon for clarification on this point.

The new royalty terms for the Amazon Appstore are as follows:

  • Royalty. For each sale of an App before July 1, 2012, the Amazon Party that made the sale will pay you a royalty (“Royalty”) equal to the greater of (i) 70% of the purchase price or (ii) 20% of the List Price (defined in and subject to Section 5i) for the applicable Amazon Marketplace as of the time of purchase. For each sale of an App on or after July 1, 2012, the Amazon Party that made the sale will pay you a Royalty equal to 70% of the List Price for the applicable Amazon Marketplace as of the time of purchase. No Royalty is payable for Apps with a List Price of $0.00. Taxes and any separately stated fees or charges are excluded from the purchase price and List Price when calculating Royalties. A Royalty is due only for sales for which we have received final payment from or on behalf of an end user. If an App is purchased using a credit card or bank account deduction mechanism, final payment will be deemed to have occurred when the applicable credit card company or bank has fully settled the payment for the applicable purchase.
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