Sprint (NYSE: S) is launching a new service for Android smartphones called "App Pass" that will give users unlimited access to a select catalog of applications and games for $5 per month, after a 14-day free trial.
Sprint said App Pass, which will launch Aug. 29, will give users unlimited access to the apps and games across two devices, and customers will also get a $5 credit each month to spend on in-app purchases.
App Pass will host a curated selection of apps and mobile games from top developers, including Gameloft and Oceanhouse Media. Select titles from other developers include OfficeSuite 7 Pro, Camera Zoom FX, Minuum Keyboard, CamScanner and Color & Draw for Kids. Sprint said new apps and games will be regularly added to the storefront.
"Many customers find value in premium apps, but hesitate to make the purchase without knowing more about the app," Wayne Ward, Sprint's vice president of business and product development, said in a statement. "With App Pass, Sprint makes it easier for our customers to 'app all you want' with a curated list of popular premium apps."
The App Pass service is powered by Mobiroo, a Canadian company founded in 2009 that develops and manages app subscription platforms globally for Android. The service will be pre-installed on all new Sprint Android devices beginning Aug. 29, and App Pass can also be found under the "apps" tab of the Sprint Zone app, on supported devices, for current Sprint customers. After the launch on Aug. 29, Sprint customers can visit www.sprint.com/apppass to learn more and download the app. (Editor's Note: The www.sprint.com/apppass link doesn't appear to be working yet.)
The App Pass service could arouse concerns about net neutrality and favoring access to certain apps over others. However, Sprint is already testing a similar concept via is Virgin Mobile Custom prepaid brand, which uses cloud technology from ItsOn.
Virgin Mobile Custom supports application-specific data add-ons if customers want to get unlimited access to only certain apps, such as unlimited Facebook or unlimited music streaming across various services, which costs around $5 per month. Or users can access to unlimited social networking for around $15. Those kinds of services can be added on a recurring or non-recurring basis.
Other carriers are experimenting with similar ideas. AT&T Mobility's (NYSE: T) Sponsored Data program partner Syntonic Wireless recently launched a content store with links to popular e-commerce, sports, news and other websites. When users visit the links, the resulting data access costs do not count toward their monthly data allotment.
Sprint's App Pass offering also harkens back somewhat to the carrier's Sprint ID effort, which the carrier first launched in October 2010. However, it appears to be more advanced and about zero-rating content rather than merely packaging it. Under Sprint ID, each ID pack assembles applications, widgets, ringtones, wallpapers and related mobile content, all tied together under the umbrella of a specific brand or theme.
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