Published: 7 October, 2011
As Facebook usage goes increasingly mobile, the social networking firm has reached beyond the smartphone base with versions of its client which rely on SMS rather than broadband connections. Now it is adding a richer experience for customers with featurephones or without data plans, thanks to a partnership with SIM card maker Gemalto.
The Dutch firm's latest SIM card leverages SMS to provide Facebook access, and the offering will get its initial launch in South America, via the cellco Personal Argentina, which has 17.4m customers. Facebook for SIM, first demonstrated at Mobile World Congress in February, offers a richer and more robust experience than merely relying on SMS for status updates, argues the firm. It provides a menu system for sending Facebook updates, viewing posts and making comments.
Customers in the initial market will get a free trial but after that, there is a fee for the service, set at $1 a day or $9 a month for unlimited access. This fee is split between the operator and Gemalto.
Such innovations take Facebook even further into the mass market than its own featurephone service, based on its acquisition of Snaptu, which still requires a basic data plan. That acquisition showed how serious the social firm is about reaching out to emerging markets, where the phone is often the only internet device but connections may be slow and consumer budgets low. In such markets, an appealing experience can make Facebook the customer's default communications and messaging hub.
In January, Facebook announced an app for basic handsets, which worked on the Snaptu Java-based platform, basically an app library for featurephones, bringing a smartphone-like experience to any gadget that can access the web. Facebook went on to acquire the Israeli company in March.