There’s a new initiative from GSMA, which is a really big consortium of Carriers and operators mostly in Europe. They’ve come to Canada. They’re doing a pilot program and it’s a terrible name. It’s called oneAPI. And the idea is that you get access to [cell] network APIs, not just device APIs. And it’s pretty fascinating.
So what are the network APIs? Well the Carriers know your geolocation, not based on a device GPS but based on cell tower triangulation. They’ve got fantastic APIs for sending text messages, SMSs, push notifications. And the killer API they have is billing.
And so with billing, it goes straight onto your phone bill. It’s something that’s going to be exposed to all the Canadian operators very soon. From one single endpoint you can hit any device that’s in Canada. It’s a pilot, and if it goes well — and it looks like it’s going to — they’re going to branch it out to Europe, Asia and the rest of North America.
In case it’s not apparent, Brian is talking about web apps that allow payment via your Carrier. That is, website charges that land directly on your monthly phone bill.
Apple (rightfully) brags about the number of credit cards they have on file via the iTunes Store. But Apple’s absolute number of accounts and average monthly transaction amount is dwarfed by the Carriers.
In today’s world, you need a cell phone. Thus, you need a Carrier account. You don’t need an iTunes account. When money gets tight, iTunes transactions look frivolous while phone bills feature an aura of utility.
People are used to paying ~$50-$300/month for their cell phone. It’s even easier for small purchases to disappear into your phone bill than on a credit card you have on file with Apple. See: Ringtones.
Carrier executive management is dumb compared to Apple. Not Record Industry-level of stupidity, but Apple can easily out-think them and try to box them into a corner.
Even if/when the US Carriers figure out they can carve themselves a piece of the Webapp Store pie, they’re not going to execute well. Think fragmented billing support, usury percentage of sale prices and piss-poor developer+customer support.
Still, the Carriers have a lot of power with their customers locked into multi-year contracts, and most folks are more loyal to their Carrier than their phone’s manufacturer.
All said, I think webapps + Carrier billing are the most credible upcoming threat to the App Store so far.