Google is giving developers the facility to charge web users to download apps for handsets running its Google Android platform, such as the T-Mobile G1.

Developers can now go to the Android publisher website and upload their applications along with consumer pricing. Paid applications will go on sale in the US starting next week and in additional countries in the coming months, Google's Eric Chu said in a blog.

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The Android Market launched in October when the first phone based on the platform went on sale. But until now, it hasn't had any checkout or payment system, so application publishers have only been able to offer free software. Google had said it would start allowing sales early this year.

Google is giving developers the facility to charge to download apps for handsets running the Google Android platform, such as T-Mobile's G1

The post did not indicate how much the applications might cost, saying only that developers would be able to "upload their application(s) along with end-user pricing". Unlike Apple's App Store, developers don't need to get their products approved by Google or by service providers. All they have to do is register for $25 (£17.50) and upload their apps.

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The payment and billing tool for Android Market will be Google Checkout. The platform, which was launched in 2006, allows payment through major credit cards and lets users save their payment information on the site.

Developers are likely to take a wait-and-see attitude to selling Android applications, said analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence. With the low price of a typical mobile application, developers may be drawn to the platform slowly as they watch the audience grow, he said.

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"The sweet spot is really $1.99 (£1.39) or less. I think that's been pretty well-established by Apple," Sterling said.

Writing applications for the iPhone offers much more potential for volume today. There are more than 15,000 applications available from the App Store, and consumers have downloaded more than 500 million, according to Apple. There were 13.7 million iPhones sold in 70 countries last year.

By contrast, the only Android phone available now is the T-Mobile G1, which is on sale in the UK, US and some other European countries. There are more than 1,000 applications on the Android Market, and thousands of developers are writing for it, according to Google.

The Android Market could be a big opportunity for Google Checkout, Sterling said. Originally seen as a potential rival to eBay's PayPal, Checkout hasn't grabbed much market share, he said.

"It never really materialised as a threat to PayPal," Sterling said.

As a web-based service, Checkout is fairly straightforward, but it will be critical for Google to make it easy for Android phone users to start using it, he said. Apple signs up iPhone users for its iTunes store as part of the activation process for the handset.

"If (Google) blows this part of it, then developers will be upset, and (Android) will be a less successful platform overall," Sterling said.

See also: Samsung pushes back Google Android phone