More than an year after inking a deal with Reliance Communications, for offering operator billing on the Nokia Store (erstwhile Ovi Store) in India, Nokia has now extended it to Vodafone and Airtel (Hat-tipClinton Jeff). Following the move, Vodafone and Airtel subscribers will be able to download paid apps from the Nokia store without a credit card and the amount would be deducted from their prepaid balance or added to their monthly phone bill. Although, even at the time of the Reliance tie-up, some Vodafone users had tweeted about seeing paid apps on Ovi Store, which disappeared afterwards, this time we can confirm that operator billing has been finally integrated.

   

We tried buying an app using a Vodafone connection on a Nokia E5, and the Nokia Store offered the ‘Phone Bill’ option as the default payment option, although there was an option to choose Visa or Master Card credit cards as a payment method. After a confirmatory prompt, the app downloaded successfully. However, we did not receive an SMS confirmation from Vodafone about the transaction. The charge did get reflected in our last three transactions,when we checked for it using Vodafone’s USSD self-help menu.

Better Late than never?

We wonder why it took so long for Nokia to integrate operator billing with leading telco players, but it would certainly help the company in pushing paid-apps to customers using its series60/ Nokia Belle smart phones, as well as Series40 feature phones, specially when Nokia’s bringing smartphone apps like Angry Birds and WhatsApp to its Asha series. It’s also interesting to note that Nokia’s offering these apps at really low prices- Angry Birds for Asha 303 costs Rs 5. As noted by Unleashthephones, we’re also seeing reduced prices for Symbian apps- Gravity, a popular social networking app, which used to cost Rs 150, is now available for Rs 35.

We’re not sure if operator billing has been pushed to its Windows Phone based Lumia phones, since apps are downloaded through Microsoft’s Windows Phone App Marketplace, which is not controlled by Nokia. We wonder why Google has still not deployed operator billing with Indian telcos for Android on the Play Store, at a time when India is one of the major emerging markets for Android phones.