09 May 2012

Twitter Sees Future in Feature Phones

Twitter's new mobile app is faster, uses less bandwidth, made for cheaper phones and slow connections
The keys to Jack Dorsey's retirement fund?
Looks like Twitter, the social network is search of a profitable business plan, has decided to go mass-market. And for 'mass' read: massive. Think 'developing world'; places where the population is fairly bursting at the seams, but where cash is scarce and you'd be lucky to find a free power outlet, much less a Starbucks with free WiFi...

As they say on their blog.:
"...we’re updating Twitter for mobile web ( in an effort to give every person on the planet a consistent Twitter experience."
MobilePhonesFan sees this as a smart move.

Concerns over high data rates and what phone makers call 'convenience factors' (e.g.: long battery life, tough and reliable handsets with readily available, inexpensive spare parts) are a big part of why many emerging markets show slow take-up of online social services. Most feature phones can overcome those objections.

Pointedly, Twitter's revised mobile app is claimed to use one-third less bandwidth. This new-found electromagnetic thrift helps make Twitter "... the most accessible way to connect with the world, even with the weakest signals and the simplest devices." Perfect for tweet-starved folks in India or Indonesia. Or Derbyshire. Or Mississippi.

Nokia's Asha Touch 311
Not coincidentally, there's new life in this part of the mobile market. Nokia, for one, seems to be making a renewed push into featurephones.

The Finnish company claims to make phones that cost less and yet 'do' more, offering up their handsome new Asha Touch line as example. True, they sure don't look like inexpensive phones. And yet they are, with prices ranging from 59 to 89 -- roughly $80 to $115.

Nokia's Asha Touch 305
Gone are the days when 'featurephone' implied a 'T9' or QWERTY keypad. These new Asha models are full touchscreen phones, reflecting Nokia's position that, by 2015, 40% of featurephones will be touchscreen devices. The Asha line also bears a familial resemblance to Nokia's Lumia 610 €189 (~$237), their low end Windows Phone. If a similar looking smartphone is seen as aspirational, that would raise the Asha's profile.

In line with Twitter's thinking, it's clear Nokia are banking on demand for mobile Internet in developing markets.:
"By introducing the Asha Touch phones to the market, we're accelerating our commitment to connect the next billion consumers. These phones deliver on what young, urban people value most -- a great-looking device; and an intuitive and affordable experience for connecting to the internet, to their friends, and to a world of entertainment, web apps and content."
         -- Mary T. McDowell, Nokia Exec. VP Mobile Phones

But there's another reason for Nokia's shift toward inexpensive touchscreen devices. Their traditional dominance in the low-end has been undermined. Increasingly, buyers are opting for low-cost Android smartphones instead of featurephones ...for more than a decade, the part of Nokia's catalog with the highest customer loyalty.

Worse, thanks to slow sales of their Lumia (Windows Phone) line, Nokia is now finding their product-mix suddenly bottom-heavy. In a world market that's rapidly shifting to smartphones, over 80% of Nokia's revenue comes from feature phones. It's because of this imbalance that Nokia lost the #1 phone maker crown to Samsung, last quarter.

That's where the Asha line comes in. By promising smartphone-like looks and functionality at featurephone prices, Nokia hopes to lure back some of those defecting buyers. “People see the smartphone phenomenon,” says Nokia VP McDowell. “They want apps. They want browser access. There’s just a smaller wallet.”

New promises 5 times faster loading and better user experience on all browers.
New Twitter Lite: Less Bandwidth - Tastes Great
It doesn't hurt that Twitter (and others) see their future in mobile devices.

Better-designed Web apps means even small, low-cost phones can provide a good user experience. Even the White House seems to be helping Nokia's cause. Last month, President Obama called on all US federal agencies to optimize their websites and critical services for mobile devices, with an initial review in just 90 days.

Who knows? With so much help from app developers, Nokia could yet turn things around.

via: Twitter

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