Verizon Wireless plans to relaunch its V Cast Apps store next month, promising to improve the experience for both consumers and developers, according to a Computerworld report Thursday. The question is, why bother? Verizon launched the V Cast Apps store last September as a would-be competitor to Google's Android Market. Verizon and Google have partnered closely on selling Android phones to their mutual benefit.
Verizon's main advantage over Google in relation to apps was offering carrier-based billing to streamline purchases. Its own apps are also certified to work well on its network and the devices it sells. But in announcing the overhaul of its app store, Kyle Malady, Verizon's vice president of network and technology, acknowledged that it "missed the mark a little bit." He noted that consumers found it slow to browse the store and download apps while developers were frustrated by the carrier's stringent approval process, leading to delays.
While promising to turn things around and provide more technical assistance to developers, wireless carriers and content just don't go well together. That's why Apple was able to almost singlehandedly create the smartphone app business by creating a more user-friendly way to access a wide selection of free and paid apps. Its trump card was having millions of existing iTunes accounts to plug into the App Store. Some 15 billion downloads later, it's clearly still the dominant force in mobile apps.
Between the App Store, the Android Market (with more than 5 billion downloads), and cross-platform app marketplaces like GetJar, Verizon and the other carriers should focus on building out their networks and other services and leave app and content distribution to partners that are better equipped to handle it. Now that Verizon has the iPhone, does it really think it's going to lure its iPhone customers away to the V Cast Apps store?
When it comes to the advantage of carrier-based billing, Google has made inroads on that front, too. Android users on T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, among other carrier networks, can now bill Android Market purchases to their wireless bills. Verizon should open that option to its own Android customers to improve service regardless of which app store users select. With the stumble of V Cast Apps, it's obvious that carrier-based billing alone will not turn Verizon into an apps powerhouse anyway.