O2 has unveiled an app store that lets mobile phone users earn money by testing apps for their handsets and providing feedback to the developers.
The network provider launched O2 Litmus to developers in December and asked them to start building apps, which could then be made available through the store. The operator has now made the site live to its customers.
Developers can either sell their apps through the free-to-use store, with O2 taking a 30 percent share of any profit made. Alternatively, they can offer them to O2 customers for free providing users rate their overall experience of each application. The apps with the best overall ratings while then be made commercially available through other portals as well as O2 Litmus.
According to O2, the app store offers a wide range of programs such as games and location-based services that allow users to track the location of nearby businesses and friends. The app are compatible with a wide range of handsets, including the Motorola V3, Nokia N95, O2 Xda Orbit II and Samsung U600, on a number of platforms such as BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile.
O2 is also offering its customers an incentive to test apps in the store. Customers will receive free life-time access to any app they trial, if it becomes commercially available. Also, in partnership with Mob4Hire, O2 is allowing users to suggest a value they think their time trialling a particular app is worth. If they are then chosen by the developer to trial the app, O2 customers will be paid the amount they suggested.
O2 said users of the app store would be "acting as test-beds for further creativity and innovation on the site" and would be "providing crucial feedback on each application they test".
"Opening an apps store has become the new mobile vogue. But for O2 it misses something fundamental: the collaboration of customer, developer and the network operator," said James Parton, head of O2 Litmus.
Parton likened mobile apps to MP3s, in that only a small proportion of the apps available are actually downloaded and used by handset owners. He said he hoped by allowing consumers to offer feedback on the apps, this would prevent developers creating apps that are never used.
"By gaining valuable customer insight and taking on board the good and the bad feedback, O2 is creating, not just another apps store, but a completely consumer-led series of useful applications that will drive Mobile 2.0 into the next generation," he added.
As well as making their apps available to consumers for free, developers that sign up to O2 Litmus can also access a number of network tools and business information for free or reduced rates.
O2 Litmus is open to any O2 customer. Those currently not with the network provider can apply for a free pay as you go sim, which they can slot into their handset to use the service.