For most customers, Apple charges iTunes or App Store purchases to a credit or debit card tied to your Apple ID.
But in Germany, Apple is working with the carrier Telefónica to let iPhone owners make iTunes Store purchases through their carrier bill. That means instead of Apple processing the charges, Telefónica adds the charges to the customer’s monthly bill.
“Telefónica Germany is working with Apple related to carrier billing,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch after the change was first spotted. “Payment via the O2 phone bill is now available for Apple Music, iTunes, App Store and iBooks Store Purchases. The service is gradually being rolled out and will be available for all O2 customers (prepaid and postpaid) in Germany by the beginning of November 2015.”
The addition of carrier billing may not seem revolutionary for more developed countries like the US. But in large parts of Asia and other emerging markets, “credit card ownership is low while access to internet grows rapidly,” according to mobile payments company Fortumo.
“This creates a challenge for merchants who have a large user base in the region as those users are unable to make payments,”Mattias Liivak, Fortumo’s head of marketing, said in a blog post in August. “Carrier billing solves this challenge by enabling payments for any phone owner, regardless of whether they have a bank account or not.”
Apple hasn’t provided any information about the feature and its possible availability outside of Germany. Tech Insider reached out to Apple for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
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