Smartphones are ubiquitous in the U.S. and most of the world, but for the majority of cellphone users across the globe, a feature phone with no data access is the norm. In fact, 8 out of 10 people in emerging markets do not have any data access for their mobile device.
The lack of a data connection means that feature phone users are stuck with limited options for using social networking services like Twitter and Facebook, tied to SMS as their only form of tweeting or posting a Facebook update. A Singapore based startup called U2opia Mobile is looking to change that by providing a service which would deliver more social network functionality to feature phone users.
The service will allow users to simply dial a code in order to receive popular Twitter topics. The service uses a protocol called USSD, or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, which will deliver pictures, graphics and videos. U2opia already has a service in place called Fonetwish which helps feature phone users to communicate via Google Talk and Facebook.
U2opia is currently operating in 30 countries, with the biggest users located in Africa and South America. The service is currently available in seven languages, and will no doubt gain more as time goes on.
U2opia is not the first company to attempt to bring web-based services to feature phones. A company called Gemalto’s LinqUS Facebook for SIM software allows feature phone users to use Facebook Messenger without using any data. To use the service, users must purchase a SIM card with the software pre-installed. The software then delivers Facebook Messages just like a regular SMS message, and responses are handled in the same manner.
For emerging markets, this is incredible news, as it will take a while for reliable data connections and affordable smartphones to expand their reach in those areas.