Apple has quietly switched on mobile carrier billing in two countries, thereby doubling its total reach. Switzerland and Taiwan — the latter marks its first such partnership in Asia — the two countries are added to Germany and Russia, where Apple first introduced the payment option last year.
Carrier billing is an important option for users who either don’t own a credit card or don’t want to tie their plastic to their Apple account. It’s particularly strategic in emerging markets, where credit card ownership is very low. Google, for example, added carrier billing in India this summer, opening the potential for millions Android phone owners to buy mobile content for the first time.
We’ve confirmed today’s update with Apple — it was first spotted by Mashable — which now means that Apple customers in Switzerland and Taiwan can buy apps and music content via their mobile operator. Apple doesn’t offer iBooks in Taiwan, but customers in Switzerland can pay for content from the eBooks service in the same way. The cost of the content is simply reflected in their post-paid bill or deducted from their balance in the case of pre-paid SIM users.
The only limitation in each country is carrier support. In Taiwan, Apple is working with FarEasTone, while the company hasn’t said which operator will support the payment option in Switzerland. For operators, striking an exclusive with Apple is seen as a factor that might help boost user numbers.
Right now, Apple is just scratching the surface with carrier billing, particularly when you consider how much more aggressive Google’s efforts have been. It’ll be interesting to see where Apple expands the payment option to next now that it has landed in Asia, a region where it has the potential to have the greatest impact.