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Feature phones are still alive – Don’t ignore them

Research shows that the vast majority of the world's population still use feature phones. Businesses should not forget about the 264.4m people that own one.
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Smartphones are taking over the world. After the battle with the last feature phones, it is estimated that by 2017, only 33.6 per cent of feature phones will be shipped worldwide, according to International Data Corporation. As it stands, however, feature phones sales total 264.4m, easily outstripping smartphone sales of 207.7m.

But to believe the feature phone marketplace can now be ignored is a misconception. In a world where bigger, better and faster mean more when it comes to mobile phone apps, we often forget about large populations within developing countries who can only access internet and download through feature phones. The majority of the world is still living with constraints on SMS, voice and asynchronous connection and they have a tendency to pass their phones down the line of family.

The feature phone is long from being forgotten; this is a growing trend in emerging countries due to the fact that they are cheap, simple and boast an exceptional battery life. China and India each have around one billion subscriptions, where Africa has stumbled into the 434m mark from its 87m total in 2005. It’s hard to imagine why more companies don’t focus on feature apps when India, for example, has more mobile phones than toilets.

Perhaps it’s time for developers to get back to basics and think of ways to simplify the customer experience.

biNu is an app platform that offers feature phones a near-smartphone functionality by providing access to web-based apps and internet services. 

BiNu boasts a number of features that include:

  • Ability to interact with social features, such as Facebook profiles;
  • Switch and use between services without having to download and install separate apps; and
  • Ten times faster, but with ten times less data.

ForgetMeNot Africa focusses on the 600m mobile phones being used in Africa – 90 per cent of which are not connected to the internet. The company aims to solve the problem by providing a wide range of internet services to these mobile phones, whether basic, feature or smart, using eTXTs.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is the deputy editor of Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business