Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

Summary: Facebook is getting serious about mobile and focusing on the 80 percent or so of the world that doesn't have a smartphone. It's a good move considering all the growth markets---Latin America, Russia, China and India---typically have feature phones.

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Facebook is getting serious about mobile and focusing on the 80 percent or so of the world that doesn't have a smartphone. It's a good move considering all the growth markets---Latin America, Russia, China and India---typically have feature phones.

The social network has outlined a new mobile app that will open Facebook up to more than 2,500 devices around the world. You could call it the Facebook conquest of the feature phone.

While most folks focus on smartphones because that's where the growth is, the reality is feature phones are about 75 percent to 80 percent of the market depending on what research firm (Gartner, IDC or comScore) you cite.

For instance, Gartner reported that 417 million phones were shipped in the third quarter and smartphones accounted for about 20 percent of them. If you want to tackle markets in China, India and Latin America you need feature phones. If you want global growth, you need feature phones. And if you want the biggest mobile footprint on the planet you need feature phones.

In a blog post, Facebook said its mobile app will work on Nokia, Sony Ericsson and LG phone. In a nutshell, Facebook is making a global carrier play to reach all those folks outside the U.S.

Facebook said:

We also wanted to make it available to as many people as possible. Similar to the 0.facebook.com site, we've worked with mobile operators from around the world to let you try this without paying for any data charges. The 14 mobile operators listed below are offering free data access when using the new Facebook mobile app during the first 90 days after they launch.

The big question to me is why this feature phone focus took so long. Given the sheer numbers involved, it would make more sense to focus on feature phones as well as the smart ones. In addition, Facebook may find ways to conserve on data consumption by playing with feature phones.

You can expect other app makers to at least ponder the feature phone route because the numbers are huge. Facebook is thinking world domination and you need feature phones to get there. Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi has highlighted the need for non-3G devices. In fact, "white box" phone makers are gaining share in the mobile phone race as they churn out commodity phones. That's only going to continue. Facebook gets it: The real growth may be in the dumb phones.

Topics: Telcos, Mobility, Social Enterprise

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16 comments
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  • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

    Is it a Facebook App for Symbian by any chance? The m.facebook.com website already works pretty well on dumbphones.

    LG and SE both now make Android phones too. So simply saying "Nokia, Sony Ericsson and LG phone" is misleading.
    bradavon
    • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

      @bradavon Yeah I still use an LG Lotus (which I love and have no plans on getting rid of) and the m.facebook.com site is actually surprisingly useful. I guess if some sort of J2ME(?) or Symbian(?) application can more easily integrate sharing of links and media it would be beneficial though... but I wonder if they really can.

      By the way, I stick to my Lotus mainly because I refuse to pay for the ridiculously overpriced plans mandated for the "smartphones". I worry about whether the carriers will try and "force" people like me to upgrade soon by limiting the existing "feature phone" plans... hope not.
      fawlty70
  • Dumb phones....

    ...may be 80% of the market, but what percentage of those have data plans, thus making the FB app usefull? I'm guessing it's pretty small.
    smann5@...
    • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

      @smann5@...
      It is FUTURE GROWTH, not current market!
      Once everyone has phones you have to UPSELL them to data.
      kd5auq
    • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

      @smann5@... from the FB blog: "We also wanted to make it available to as many people as possible. Similar to the 0.facebook.com site, we've worked with mobile operators from around the world to let you try this without paying for any data charges. The 14 mobile operators listed below are offering free data access when using the new Facebook mobile app during the first 90 days after they launch."

      They're trying to get them to upgrade the plans by offering free trials.
      fawlty70
  • Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

    Third party apps have been available for facebook for a while now. On Verizon, they have one called SocialBeat that will allow you to log into facebook. Probably not as feature full as the official app but from what I've seen it gets the job done. It is a smart move though for Facebook to go after dumb/feature phones. I always wondered why more companies didn't even though that is what more people have.
    Loverock Davidson
  • No such thing as a dumb phone...

    ...only dumb users.
    james347
  • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

    By the way, I just tried this app on my LG Lotus (so I guess it's J2ME), and while it installed fine I get "Your carrier doesn't support this app." Thanks, Sprint... wonder if there's a hack to get it working.
    fawlty70
    • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

      @fawlty70
      My Samsung Sprint phone has a Facebook app already built-in. It's in the Sprint One-Click carousel. So, I don't think that it's Sprint per se, but rather it's that the app and Sprint's service don't work together. And the app is putting all the blame on Sprint.
      reziol
  • Hmmm

    People who use Facebook are very... ignorant or apathetic.

    Read their terms of service and privacy policies.
    HypnoToad72
    • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

      @HypnoToad72 You sir are the ignorant one - which is what I would expect from a drive by troll such as yourself. The article is not on the gneral use of FB per se but rather the introduction of FB apps on feature phones. At least stick to the subject.
      athynz
  • Addendum

    Incidentally, 'dumb phones' don't have a data plan and the price for data plans, which are mandatory on smart phones, are absurdly high to begin with.
    HypnoToad72
    • Not really.

      @HypnoToad72

      For $30 Month on AT&T, I get unlimited messages (Family plan), and unlimited data is an additional $10 per phone . . .

      That's for our Feature phones. I don't have or need Data, so I don't pay it. You don't get that choice with a "Smart" Phone.
      JLHenry
    • My Apologies.

      @HypnoToad72

      I thought you were slamming Feature phones. I went back and reread your post, and realized you weren't.

      But Data on feature phones isn't very expensive at all . . .If you have an individual line you want Unlimited text and data on, it was (last time I looked) $20 month for BOTH on AT&T.
      JLHenry
    • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

      @HypnoToad72 Just go with Virgin Mobile. $25/month no-contract for unlimited data and texting, plus 300 minutes. They offer this for smart and "dumb" phones, though there smart phone selection is very limited.
      K B
      • RE: Facebook focus on app for dumb phones is very smart

        @K B I'm with Virgin too, and they now have a $30/month plan with 10MB data, 500 texts, and 1500 minutes. More than enough for me!
        ddferrari