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The ability to buy with a one-click addition to a phone bill could be transformative for the mobile industry

If Apple has taught us anything it’s that if you make it easy then people will pay. And what could be easier than adding the price of any purchase to your mobile phone bill?

Transparent mobile billing, with the right price points, could provide a significant fillip to the business of any digital media company. Consumers’ comfort with their mobile phones and their monthly bills means mobile billing could easily play a big role in the purchase of physical goods.

Imagine every book or CD in a newspaper having a code that, when texted, shipped it to your home and added the cost to your phone bill. A dream for many over the past few years, this could be getting nearer.

The fact we’re even discussing it shows how far mobile phone operators have slipped in their once-powerful grip on digital media. After all, they hold one of the most potentially powerful advantages any company could wish for: a direct billing relationship with consumers. The ease with which mobile subscribers could add content to their bill led to the creation of the multi-million-pound ringtone industry a few years ago.

But this seamless, consumer-friendly payment system failed to evolve. It got stuck on fixed, low-volume prices and revenue share models made billing for higher-priced, non-digital goods prohibitive. High-profile stories about consumers being ripped off by dodgy ringtone clubs and mismanaged voting on TV shows didn’t help consumer confidence.

This allowed companies such as Apple, with its equally seamless iTunes billing system and the roaring success of apps, to take the lead. However, as our nma mobile feature this week shows, this could be the year operators fight back, making direct billing much more friendly.

This should be great news for the industry. As people spend more time online via their handsets, the ability to buy with a one-click addition to their bill could be transformative.

Apple has proved the value of this type of frictionless commerce. With operators’ unrivalled depth of customer relationships, this year could see mobile phone operators going even further.


Published 13 January, 2011 by NMA Staff

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