Smartphones, dumbphones, and Facebook phones

This is going to be big for Orange and big for Facebook.

We have smartphones, we have dumbphones, and now, thanks to a partnership between mobile provider Orange, handset maker Alcatel and social network giant Facebook, we have what I think are the first true 'Facebook phones.'

I won't bore you with the spec or the PR blurb because there only three things you need to know about these handsets (and one of these is NOT that the one you see in the middle in the photo above is powered by the Android OS):

  • They're cheap ... under €100 (around $135 depending on the exchange rate), with the cheapest one being less than half that
  • Facebook data is free and unlimited (I've not looked for any 'fair usage' but I assume it'll be buried into the terms and conditions somewhere
  • They all feature a Facebook button ... yes, that's right, a physical 'Facebook' button

Note: Another thing that you might want to know is that the handsets won't be available in the US, so put your credit card away! These are for emerging markets only.

Now, you might scoff at that Facebook button. Why does a phone need a physical button for Facebook? Because if you have a button on something (anything), people will use it! What's more, people are already conditioned to look for and interact with that little Facebook icon all over the web. Having that translated into a physical button will make it irresistible.

People will click it.

There's an old Dilbert cartoon from 1995 about a salesman trying to sell Dilbert his most user-friendly computer. The pre-installed software only had one button, and it was pre-pressed before it left the factory. Well, while these handsets have more than one button, and the Facebook button hasn't been pre-pressed before leaving the Alcatel factory, having a Facebook icon right there in front of the user will pretty much click itself.

Especially as the data is free.

It's a nice, simple solution, and nice simple solutions are what people want. I get the feeling that these are going to be big for Orange and big for Facebook. Smartphones are too expensive (and are tied to even more expensive data plans) to gain much traction in emerging markets, but handsets that fall between smartphones and dumbphones, especially ones tied to a service that people know and love, could do very well.

Interesting and innovative idea.

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