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Microsoft’s Windows Phone becomes first to offer carrier billing

Microsoft’s Windows Phone may not have the market share of Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Android devices, but that has not stopped the US firm from targeting emerging markets as a major growth area.

The announcement that Windows Phone will become the first smartphone platform to offer carrier billing in some of these key nations is sure to help its cause.

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Carrier billing is used as an alternative method for purchasing apps and other content in place of direct credit card billing. Instead, any charges are simply added to the customer’s mobile phone account, a feature which is proving particularly popular in developing countries where debit and credit cards are less common. According to estimates by WorldBank and Microsoft, approximately 93 per cent of people in emerging markets do not own a credit card.

The decision to expand Windows Phone’s carrier billing to these countries may also stem from the fact that 60 per cent of all paid transactions on the platform already occur using this method.

While Microsoft already offers carrier billing in the US, the UK and most of continental Europe, it will become the first smartphone provider to offer the service in the potentially lucrative emerging markets of Brazil, China and Mexico. The launch could, therefore, offer the Redmond-based company a huge advantage in these countries.

In a blog post online, Microsoft general manager Todd Brix highlighted just how important these markets could become to the firm, while emphasising that it is not neglecting its US customers.

"China Mobile alone is estimated to serve nearly 800 million customers, including millions of Windows Phone users,” he wrote. “"The largest carrier in the US, Verizon Wireless, has also added Windows Phone to the platforms it supports with carrier billing."

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Microsoft’s decision to focus on emerging markets and lower end smartphones is not surprising given that its flagship Windows Phone handsets have struggled in developed countries, where the market hasb become saturated with high-end devices.