Carrier-based app stores must change (or fade away)

With all  the  new OS-based  mobile device application stores popping up lately, it’s easy to forget that carrier-based app stores are still around. I admit they slipped my mind until I flipped through today’s paper and stumbled upon the Verizon Wireless flyer advertising their phone apps  (my wife and I enjoy the quaint tradition of coffee and newspaper on Sunday morning). I  was intrigued until I checked  out the website and then remembered why at least this carrier-based store is better left forgotten.

$4 a month for eBay access?!?
$4 a month for eBay access?!?

Yes, even in the face of competition from OS-based app stores offering  dedicated eBay apps at no charge, not to mention regular web access to eBay,  Verizon Wireless has the audacity to charge a monthly subscription for this. And not a piddly amount like 25 cents, but $3.99 a month, something you can  really feel in your wallet. To put that into perspective, if you wanted this on two phones for two years, the accumulated fee would be $191.52. By contrast, with Verizon’s current “buy one, get one free”  sale, you can get two BlackBerry Storms for $199.99 with two year contract. Keep in mind, that $191.52  fee  is  just to check eBay. You want maps or visual voice mail or anything else, the cheaper solution  becomes the  Storm or some  other versatile smartphone, even without the sale.

As smartphones continue to permeate the non-business consumer market and OS-based app stores reach more users, I don’t see how  this type of subscription-based  sales model can continue.  What amazes me is that they’re actually advertising their app store, as if  lack of  consumer awareness is the problem.  No, the problem is  consumers  become aware of  that  $4 a month price tag and say, “No thanks.” Verizon, I give your app sales system another year of life tops, then it’s time to match the competition or get killed by it.

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at]


  1. I think I would say that the distinction is not carrier-based app stores vs. OS based app stores- the real thing you seem to be saying here is open vs. closed app stores. Competition drives the price down, which is why there aren’t many paid ebay apps on the iPhone app store, and that’s because it’s open, not because it’s a OS-based app store.

    The Apple app store IS a carrier-based app store – it’s only AT&T (let’s not concern ourselves with other countries for the argument;) the difference is that they are open to all contributors. (Well, at least if you can make it through the convoluted and oft self-contradictory selection/approval process)

  2. fleon: I have no problem with the open vs. closed argument, however, the new wave of app stores from Apple, Android, RIM, and Nokia, with Microsoft and Palm expected to follow, are definitely OS-based. Even if we excluded non-U.S. carriers, the Apple app store also serves the iPod touch, which has nothing to do with a carrier.

  3. Yes, they are OS-based. But have they done well? Will they do well? I agree that the Verizon offering is somewhat ridiculously bad, but I think your causality is wrong.

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