Android has a problem - it can't monetize itself very well. Some people blame it on the fact that the Android market is severely fragmented while others blame it on Google limiting the amount of options that developers can use to monetize their apps. Google is at least going to fix the latter starting today.
An announcement went out today signaling the beginning of in-app subscriptions for Android apps on Google Play. Previously, the only way to monetize an Android app through Google Play was to either charge up front for it or use in-app billing which allowed people to buy items in game through Google Wallet.
The next logical step is of course in-app subscriptions and Google is happy to comply. This means that developers can now set up subscription fees from inside their apps. Developers can now charge for monthly to annual fees through their apps for the services it provides. This kind of monetization is especially helpful for apps like mobile newspapers.
Google uses the example of gaming on Android. For a game that required a monthly fee in the past, the player would have to enter their credentials and pay for the game each month. Now with in-app subscriptions through Google Play, they can set up a monthly subscription and have Google Play take care of the rest.
The new feature is user friendly as well. All user have to do is visit My Apps in the Google Play store app to see any recurring subscriptions. They can cancel at any time. The only non-user friendly bit is that it auto-renews subscriptions so it's up to the user to remember whenever a renewal is on the horizon.
The launch of this new service is also super helpful to developers. They can use a new HTTP-based publisher API to connect their Android apps with their Web apps. Users can subscribe via Google Play and the Web app will recognize that subscription. For example, MMOs would be able to feature a mobile component that carries over to the Web experience and vice versa.
Google Play subscriptions are now available to all developers. You can get started by checking out the documentation and sample app. Subscriptions will be available to all users running Google Play 3.5 and above.