Can’t live without Fergie ringtones on your Android handset, but can’t take the time to throw together your own? You may be in luck. While rummaging around through the files tucked away within the Android Market package, the guys over at Phandroid noticed a couple of unused icons lingering. If these icons are any indication of functionality thus far unseen, we might be seeing ringtones, wallpapers, and Google Checkout support make their way into the Android Market before too long.
Google Checkout is a fairly obvious step for Android. They’ve had it up and running for over 2 years now, and have already done the legwork of building the credit card processing system, negotiating fees, etc. With the purchase price already involving 3 parties (The carrier, the developer, and Google, though Google takes nothing more than whatever is required to cover transaction fees), bringing anyone else in to handle something Google already has a solution for makes no sense.
Now, with ringtones and wallpapers, the first interpretation most people seem to be pulling from this is, “Wow! User-made ringtones and wallpapers along the lines of the application set up!” That’s probably not the case, due to one big nasty obstacle: copyright. As nice as it may be for your Ferrari fund, you just can’t go peddling unauthorized Fergie ringtones for 99 cents a pop. Same story with wallpapers – for the things folks tend to use as cell phone backgrounds (sports teams, cars, celebrities, models), someone needs to be gettin’ paid.
So if the users can’t supply the ringtones, who will? There are two options: Either Google will do all of the licensing and content creation themselves (which I really, really doubt), or it’s being put there for the carriers as a venue for their goods (much more likely). Trivial as they may seem to the technically inclined, ringtones and wallpapers pull in a substantial amount of money from the crowd who just wants to add a bit of personality to their handset without having to lift a finger. Google can either force the carriers to come up with their own separate solution – essentially adding a second market – or they can give carriers a bit of space in the Android Market. It makes the carriers happy, and potentially pulls in some more eyes to browse around the Application section. It’s win-win and, as long as no one tries to clamp off make-your-own solutions like Ringdroid, the user doesn’t lose anything either.