Facebook Jan. 19 rolled out a new mobile application to allow people with feature phones to access the social network on the go without incurring data charges.
Built in conjunction with mobile app specialist Snaptu, Facebook for Feature Phones aims to approximate the user experience of smartphones on a feature phone by offering an easier-to-navigate home screen, contact synchronization, and speedy scrolling of photos and friend updates.
“Smartphones have offered better features for sharing with friends but aren’t used by most people around the world,” said Facebook program manager Mark Heynen.
Heynen is referring to developing nations, such as smaller Latin American and European nations. Most users in these regions use Internet-enabled mobile phones without the full HTML browsers that come on Apple’s iPhone and Google Android smartphones.
Facebook for Feature Phones will run on more than 2,500 devices from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG and other handset makers manufacturers.
Facebook has enlisted 14 mobile operators to offer free data access when using the new Facebook mobile app, accessible from m.fb.snaptu.com/f, during the first 90 days after they launch.
Dialog in Sri Lanka, Life in Ukraine, Play in Poland, StarHub in Singapore, STC in Saudi Arabia, Three in Hong Kong and Tunisiana in Tunisia, Viva in the Dominican Republic, and Vodafone in Romania are supporting Facebook for Feature Phones now.
Mobilicity in Canada, Reliance in India, Telcel in Mexico, TIM in Brazil, and Vivacom Bulgaria are launching on m.fb.snaptu.com/f soon, Heynen said. Support for more regions will follow.
Facebook for Feature Phones recalls earlier efforts by Facebook to make it easier for users in developing nations to access its social network.
In 2009, Facebook toyed with Facebook Lite, a faster, but stripped down version of the social network designed for countries that have bandwidth speed or cost constraints.
Facebook is also said to be working on tailoring a social networking phone lineup with U.K. phone maker INQ.