Zong Extends Mobile Payments to Game Consoles and More

Zong, one of the many startups trying to address carrier billing as a viable payment option for digital goods, is expanding its platform to other technologies, including game consoles and tablets.

So far, Zong’s payments have been used primarily for paying for virtual goods or items within games on Facebook and Android phones.

Today, the Menlo Park, CA, company says it is extending carrier billing to other environments, such as Adobe’s Flash, Interactive TV, gaming consoles, the mobile web, and Unity, a gaming development tool that works across various platforms. It will also be supporting Android’s new operating system for tablets, called Honeycomb.

Zong said to collect payments, it will ask the user for his or her mobile phone number. Zong will then verify the number with a text message that is sent to the handset, which will complete the transaction. The charge will appear on the consumer’s mobile phone bill or prepaid mobile account.

Collecting payments is frequently a challenge, no matter what the platform. Often, children or young adults don’t have access to credit cards. Users across the age spectrum might prefer the convenience of charging small transactions to their carrier bills rather than having to input a credit card number.

Mobile phone billing has been around for years, but has been used primarily for buying ringtones and other mobile content. It’s only been in the past few months that it has become viable for other expenses, as carriers have lowered the rates they charge.

Zong, along with other startups in the space, like Boku and BilltoMobile, have been negotiating with carriers to lower those rates to make it more feasible to use the carrier bill as a viable payment method.

Zong’s CEO David Marcus told us recently that a lot of progress has been made in recent months with carriers dramatically lowering rates, so they are more in line with credit cards (although still more expensive).

In the not so distant future, he believes carriers will lower the rates enough to enable charging for even some lower margin physical goods. Potentially, it won’t be low enough for everyday items such as groceries or gas.

But next up is for things such as vouchers from Groupon and LivingSocial.

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