In-App Purchases Are Just What the Android Market Needs

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Google has removed one more big stumbling block for Android developers by bringing in-app purchases to the Android Market.

In-app purchases allow developers to release their software for free, in hopes of hooking users with new content or extra features. Don’t underestimate the allure of such a feature; according to GigaOM, in-app purchases accounted for a third of the iPhone’s top-grossing apps as of November. Apple has allowed in-app purchasing since mid-2009.

Already, new apps are taking advantage of the feature for Android, including Disney’s Tap Tap Revenge and comiXology’s Comics. Because these apps rely entirely on in-app purchases for revenue, they’re just debuting for Android now.

This is a big move for Google as it tries to make the Android Market more hospitable for developers. In February, Google updated the Android Market website to include a searchable index of every app in the store, along with the ability to install apps remotely from a PC. On smartphones, the Android Market got a redesign in December, putting an emphasis on featured apps for every category.

But unlike the iPhone, Android users are still allowed to download free apps without ever entering payment information. That may be a boon for frugal consumers, but it’s another roadblock Google will have to address if it wants to encourage more app sales.