Facebook has released an application for accessing the online social network on standard cell phones, as the company continues to push its mobile ambitions onto as many devices as possible.
Facebook launched the new app Thursday, saying it will work on more than 2,500 phones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, and other manufacturers. The company developed the app with Snaptu, which specializes in helping Web sites take their content from the personal computer to the much smaller screen of a mobile phone.
Facebook's latest move in the mobile arena recognizes that most wireless subscribers are not smartphone users, despite all the media attention given to the Apple iPhone and advanced handhelds running Google's Android operating system. Roughly seven in 10 mobile phone users in the United States had a feature phone in October 2010, while about 30% had a smartphone, according to Nielsen.
Which is not to say that smartphone use isn't growing. If current U.S. trends continue, the use of smartphones could surpass that of feature phones this year, Nielsen said. But with 228 million mobile phone users in the U.S., ignoring feature phones would amount to crossing off tens of millions of users. The number of feature phone users outside the United States is much higher, and the switch to smartphones is much slower, depending on the country.
Facebook is trying to stay in touch with feature-phone users by making sure they can easily navigate Facebook's mobile home screen, synchronize contacts, and quickly scroll through photos and friends' updates.
Facebook released its app Thursday through wireless service providers in the United States and select carriers in Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Poland, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Tunisia, Dominican Republic, and Romania. Facebook plans to release the application soon in Canada, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Bulgaria.
Facebook's ambitions in the mobile arena go beyond just helping people stay in touch with friends. The company introduced in November developer tools aimed at making it easier to integrate its sign-on capabilities and location data into mobile applications. The tools opened the way to delivering mobile commerce to the more than 200 million people using Facebook across various mobile platforms.