ePayments Week: Android's predicted ascendance

Android could soon own half the market, NFC Simm cards in China, and Quova challenges developers

Here’s what caught my attention in the payment space this week.

In the future, half the world will be Android

Well, half the smart phone world, anyway. Gartner Research is predicting that Google’s Android operating system will continue its drive to become the most popular mobile OS in the world and, by the end of 2012, could own about half the market. Windows’ mobile will pick up share, too, more than doubling to about 11% over the same time. Where will all that market share come from? Gartner sees Symbian dropping like a rock as Nokia ports over to Windows. Perhaps more surprising, Mashable’s Ben Parr noted with a tad of skepticism, is Gartner’s prediction that Apple’s iOS will peak this year and begin to dip by next.

Predictions are always a little sketchy, but there’s no doubt Android is gaining share and significantly reshaping the smartphone and mobile markets by packaging its app-friendly platform onto inexpensive hardware. This week AT&T announced a prepaid smart phone, the LG Thrive, following the lead of Verizon, which began offering prepaid smart phones last autumn on RIM, WebOS and Android handsets. Google has also been working with telecom carriers to make buying apps from its marketplace as seamless as it is over at Apple’s App Store. AT&T and Sprint will now add the app cost to your monthly bill, so no need for a credit card or even Google Checkout.

Where is it all heading? Gigaom’s Om Malik talked with Juniper Networks chairman Pradeep Sindhu to get his thoughts. In a brief conversation that ranges from the IBM 360 to the cloud, Sindhu made the point that smartphones as platforms will not only place greater demands on the network but will also change the way we think about it, blurring the lines between what is mobile and what is web. For a more hands-on and tactical view of where it’s going, developers might want to look at the sessions in the Android track at next month’s Google Developer Conference, May 10-11, in San Francisco.

NFC in China

Bus and subway riders in China have already been using prepaid cards equipped with near-field communications (NFC) technology to pay for their rides. With the infrastructure to receive their payments already in place, it should be a relatively easy switch to put the NFC card inside their phones instead of their wallets. NFC World’s Christopher Brown said that Watchdata, which produces both types of cards, has produced more than 3 million NFC SIMM cards for mobiles, complete with a little antenna that sticks out of the card slot. The third million shipped in the past four months, Brown noted, so the pace is quickening. China Telecom has distributed most of the cards, but competitor China Unicom is also trying out the phone cards, launching a program in Beijing that goes beyond transit into theaters, markets and restaurants.

No word on whether the external antenna is an annoyance. But we’re pretty sure it’s a temporary inconvenience since handsets in the not-too-distant future will probably put the NFC circuitry and its antenna inside the phone.

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Quova’s Location Developer Challenge wants to know: Where U At?

Quova, which offers ways to help websites know the locations of their visitors, is holding a Location Developer Challenge to promote its nascent developer program. If you have an idea for an interesting location-aware web app, or a fresh take on visualizing location data, take a look at the details. They’ll be spurring on promising contestants with monthly spot bonuses of $500 and then sending the winner to the Future of Web Apps conference in Las Vegas June 27-29, to show off the winning app.

While much of the buzz around geolocation centers around mobile apps, Quova’s business focuses on fraud detection and geographically targeted ads for website visitors from desktop and laptop browsers. “We’re not a mobile play,” said company spokeswoman LaurieAnne Lassek in a phone interview, “but the web is not going away.” Quova draws on a database of 3 billion publicly available IP addresses, mostly in North America and Europe. It opened its API last November and is just beginning to build a developer program. Registering for the program gives you access to the API and up to 10,000 queries on their data. “When you start to monetize the product, we work out a revenue-sharing deal,” Lassek said.

Note: Quova will be at next week’s Where 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

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If you’re interested in learning more about the payment development space, check out PayPal X DevZone, a collaboration between O’Reilly and PayPal.


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