When “Verizon Apps,” formerly known as VCast Apps, shuts down on March 27, 2013, you will not hear any of your friends complaining. Nobody will lament the loss of their favorite photo app, or that neat app that took 10 seconds to load that offered Cee Lo Green wallpapers for you to install. Verizon Apps will die, and people who are buying iPhones, Android devices, and Windows Phone models will just continue to ignore Verizon’s pleas to acknowledge how hip and so very different the big red carrier is from its competition. And how much Verizon dislikes having another company creating new features for its phones.
Which is why Verizon would ever bother to have its own app store, at least after, say, 2010. You could understand Verizon needing to maintain a store of sorts for its diminishing but still active feature phone section. But on smartphones, it seems like the best it could hope for was to be some kind of third-place marketplace—after the Android or BlackBerry market already installed and somewhat obvious on your phone, and after Amazon’s Appstore, which is pre-installed on Amazon’s own Kindle Fire devices and occasionally hosts a give-away of a notable app. Verizon had to know it could, at best, offer the same apps as other markets, in a slightly less well-tended setting. Or, maybe, offer niche apps for people who only want a few apps, but have, confusingly, purchased a smartphone.
Or, more likely than any of that, hoping that it could head off Google’s Android Market, where all kinds of apps can be found that allow free and clear tethering, manipulation of root system files, data limit work-arounds, virtual payment systems that compete with Verizon’s own pay-by-phone ambitions, free ringtone generators, and on and on.
A little over a year ago, Verizon partnered with app-finding startup Chomp (since acquired and swallowed up by Apple), looking to make it easier for phone owners to find apps by phrases and uses, rather than by name. And a Verizon representative boasted that “while only around one in 10 app downloads on the broader Android Market are paid, some three in five of Verizon app downloads are paid.” To my ears, that sounds like Verizon was happy with customers who were led to believe they had to pay for most apps, and were bolstering their ability to direct phone owners searching for new abilities into their more purchase-based store.
But all that’s in the past now, as Verizon starts removing Verizon Apps from customers’ phones and winding down its developer payments. Verizon has definitely learned that its customers prefer to buy software from software companies, and it will not be trying to determine which virtual wallets, tethering apps, and video chat software it would prefer its customers to use. Yeah!