Apps have changed the way we communicate, connect and access content. But while a big portion of the 800,000 or so applications on the iTunes App Store (and about the same count on Google Play Store) are free, some apps are premium and will require a small payment.

For most users, this will require a credit card, which you can then use to download apps to your heart’s content, and these range anywhere from US$0.99 up. But in emerging economies where credit cards are not that common, alternatives would either be to use debit cards (again a limited option) or download pirated versions of apps and side-load these onto a jailbroken device.

Philippine startup Apptivate aims to change this practice by offering individuals without credit card accounts the opportunity to buy apps legally through other payment means. Founded by Norris Jay Perez, it opens up the world of mobile apps to non-credit cardholders. Currently, Apptivate accepts Globe GCash and Smart Money — from the two biggest telecom operators in the country — as well as through remittance and logistics provider LBC.

Practically anyone can access and reload either GCash or Smart Money with their mobile phones, and LBC outlets are located nationwide, making it easy for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users to buy credits for use with Apptivate. The service has also launched its own prepaid cards, which come in “coin” values and sold in select outlets and stores around the country.

The system works by letting the user redeem coin value into his account, which can then be used toward the purchase of apps from within the Apptivate interface. The user then gets confirmation from iTunes via email, and the user can redeem apps on the mobile device. Apptivate charges a slight premium over the App Store price. A Facebook login is required to authenticate with the Apptivate interface, and users need a valid iTunes account.

Apptivate card

The reverse side of an Apptivate card, with the PIN and instructions on how to redeem the coin value. (Credit: Apptivate)

Apptivate is part of the 10 startups that Kickstart Ventures has funded so far since its launch in 2012. Check out how you can buy apps without a credit or debit card through