Light Reading

A New Verizon App Store? Say It Ain't So

Sarah Thomas
8/20/2014
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When I saw the report that Verizon is planning to launch its own app store, I figured it was an old article. It's gone down this path before… and not successfully either.

Well, it's not old, and it gets more peculiar. Apparently, Verizon Wireless wants to offer its own Android app store alternative, and it plans to do so by creating an "industry coalition." We've been down this path before too! Remember WAC? It's okay if you don't. It failed pretty quickly. (See Wave Goodbye to WAC, Verizon to Launch Enterprise App Stores and Verizon Starts Over With Apps.)

According to a report in The Information (subscription required), Verizon wants the app store to be different -- a place where "developers can take full advantage of specific features of wireless-carrier networks ways of discovering the mobile software they might want." Those might include location, time of day or social network integration. It's reportedly going down this path as a response to decreased revenue-sharing with Google.

The report says the app store would be available globally, which makes me think it's the same app store consortium that was in the works back in 2012. At the time, Light Reading reported that carriers including Verizon, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) were joining forces to create a global app store accessible by all their customers. It was an interesting idea, made more compelling by its global interoperability, but it never came to fruition. (See Vodafone Leads Open Global App-Store Push.)


Want to know more about operators' apps strategies? Check out the mobile services channel here on Light Reading.


Carrier apps are a noble cause and one operators should be working toward by exposing their application programming interfaces (APIs) to developers. But rarely, if ever in the US, at least, has an operator-run app store done well. While the stated intentions are always on target, they typically end up being full of paid-for bloatware that consumers don't necessarily want. And, they're usually preloaded with no option to remove them.

Maybe this time it will be different. Operators are beginning to offer toll-free apps that will need a spot to live on the device, and some, such as Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), are experimenting with offering their own app subscriptions, something that's been popular in Asia. (See More AT&T Toll-Free Data Apps Trickle Out.)

Plus, the global angle certainly makes it more interesting. That said, the fact that it's been talked about for two years with no progress so far doesn't make me optimistic. Carrier API-supported apps are a great idea. Carrier-owned and operated app stores via industry consortium? Not so much.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
8/22/2014 | 1:37:56 PM
Re: Verizon response
She went and stood in front of the store for pictures when it opened. There's still stores open in Brooklyn, Queens & the Bronx.

I take it you've never been to this part of Flatbush, Dennis? It's hardly hipster town. It's *behind* Barclays Center, along with all the other stores for rent.

Check out the Google Maps street view.

 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/22/2014 | 11:03:47 AM
Re: Verizon response
Yes -- it was clear from the outset that Jenny didn't have the same enthusiasm for her cellphone boutique as, say, George Foreman had for his grill.
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
8/22/2014 | 10:48:21 AM
Re: Verizon response
I was wondering what would become of the Verizon/Brightstar/JLo tie up now that Claure took over Sprint. I heard JLo was never really that involved, which came as a complete shock to me.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/22/2014 | 10:43:53 AM
Re: Verizon response
In a related story, VZ has shuttered another "store" venture, this one involving Jennifer Lopez and a bricks-and-mortar cellphone boutique in Hipsterland USA (fka Brooklyn).
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
8/21/2014 | 12:47:54 PM
Verizon response
Well, a Verizon spokeswoman says an app store is a no go; that they have no plans for it, but The Information stands by its source. We'll have to see...it makes sense they are exploring it given the tie in to the consortium discussed back in 2012, but it doesn't really make sense to do it...so I guess I'm not sure.

Here's the story: http://recode.net/2014/08/20/verizon-says-it-has-no-plans-for-another-app-store/
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
8/21/2014 | 12:45:40 PM
Re: Can they pull it off?
I think you've put together a pretty good list of reasons, AHavang, plus things like precise location, social media integration, and QOS. It still might not add up to be compelling enough for customers though. Depends on large part how accessible and cheap it is.
AHavang
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AHavang,
User Rank: Blogger
8/21/2014 | 8:58:46 AM
Re: Can they pull it off?
The odds are certainly not in their favour, but they do have a few unique things that could help them (talking APIs here that could be made available to the app developer):

* Knowing the subscriber, his ARPU/service plan, age, adress, device and device history

* Direct access to the billing interface (ie in-app payments go on your phone bill)

* Direct information about the data/voice consumption and caps

* For fixed+mobile operators, you could do something fancy with "call home vpn access" and magically shut the lights of from your car or watch the nannycam with zero rated data.

* Possibly other things.. but not a whole lot.

But none of those APIs are there today, so this new community of operators would have to create that to take advantage of joining forces.

So.. not much of a technical "advantage". Considering the list of disadvantages is probably twice as long, the only thing that remains is price of the apps. Which means they probably have to pay the app developers to contribute free apps for a long time to reach critical mass.

Pretty hopeless. 
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/21/2014 | 4:04:37 AM
Re: Can they pull it off?
I wonder why VZ are going into that direction as operator store model has failed in almost every country where it launched. Even if OP APIs are exposed, this doesnt generate the minimum traffic needed to keep the store alive. The only places where this is seeing momentum is Japan and Korea where the model is different. The store is a content store that litterally sells everything from apps to music to documents to groceries. This also worked in these countries where localized apps cannot be found on the global stores(not the case for VZ).
Atlantis-dude
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Atlantis-dude,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/20/2014 | 6:00:49 PM
Location
What can VZ provide that the app can't get directly off the phone ?
alexgiess
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alexgiess,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/20/2014 | 5:17:54 PM
Re: Can they pull it off?
Yes. API for identity/location + option of toll-free offered wholesale across international carriers ==> global scale reached to satisfy OEMs, global brands

It will take some time....
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