Facebook says 100 million use network on not-so-smart phones

Facebook works on not-so-smartphones, too.

And apparently it’s working pretty well. The social networking giant announced Sunday that more than 100 million people are now using “Facebook For Every Phone,” the app that lets people connect with Facebook on so-called feature phones, or those basic mobile phones we all carried before the dawn of the iPhone and Android smartphone era.

Who doesn’t use a smartphone? Much of the developing world, where devices that costs several hundred dollars – and a monthly data plan that runs $40 or more – are still far too expensive for many people.

Facebook, which has already signed up just about every potential user in the United States and Europe, wants to connect with those other markets, too. The company didn’t provide a breakdown, but Ran Makavy, who helped develop Facebook For Every Phone, wrote in a company blog post Sunday night:

“Today, millions of people in developing markets like India, Indonesia and the Philippines are relying on this technology to connect with Facebook, without having to purchase a smartphone.”

Makavy’s job title at Facebook is “growth manager,” and he’s in charge of an effort that the company is clearly hoping will build its user base around the world. People in those developing nations might not be viewed as a prime audience for western advertisers, but they’re going to become avid consumers as their own economies expand.

And Facebook can’t afford to wait, as Mike Isaac points out in the All Things D blog, since other online services like Twitter and chat programs from Asian companies are starting to make inroads in those countries.

Facebook For Every Phone is available for U.S. users, too. While it lacks some of the features and functions of Facebook’s more advanced smartphone apps, the company says it lets users create an account, connect with friends and use such core Facebook features as News Feed, Messenger and Photos.

The app – which is based on technology that Facebook acquired when it bought the Israeli start-up, Snaptu, in 2011 – is designed to use less data than other mobile services, which makes it cheaper for consumers to use, according to Makavy, a Snaptu cofounder. Facebook has also negotiated deals with mobile phone carriers around the world to offer free or discounted access to the app.

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (329 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.