In spite of iOS and Android’s quest towards world domination, it’s easy for us overprivileged first-world residents to forget that the spread of the smartphone doesn’t affect everyone. In fact, only half of all mobile phones shipped in 2013 are expected to be smartphones. The rest are the slower, clunkier and exponentially cheaper devices officially known as feature phones but more commonly dismissed as dumbphones. Careful though — they’re smarter than you think.
Often lacking a touchscreen and consuming just a fraction of the amount of data as their more advanced siblings, dumbphones can nevertheless still perform many of the functions that smartphones can. The following dumbphone-friendly apps aren’t necessarily pretty and certainly aren’t as powerful as their smartphone equivalents. But they work!
Over the weekend, Facebook made something of a startling announcement: Over 100 million people are now using its dumbphone app, Facebook for Every Phone. While it’s well short of the company’s billion plus global user base, that sure is a lot of dumbphones! Facebook has invested serious time and energy into making Facebook for Every Phone the must-have app for the dumbphone set. Powered by software from Snaptu, a mobile platform that Facebook acquired in 2011, the app includes popular features like the News Feed, Photos, and Messenger, and it’s available on over 3000 different types of dumbphones. Eventually, as smartphones get cheaper and the market shifts, Facebook wants to transfer its dumbphone users over to Facebook Home, as it continues to look to mobile for its next wave of users.
Lots of people forget that Twitter started out as a dumbphone service. Having launched just before the announcement of the original iPhone, Twitter was originally text message-based and only later gained the convenience of mobile apps. That said, it still works via text, and there are also dumbphone-optimised versions like that created by the mobile app platform BiNu. Thanks to this Java-based software, Twitter enjoys almost the same functionality on a dumbphone as it would a smartphone, and uses minimal data.
The popular check-in app cemented itself as a staple in the mobile marketplace earlier this year when it announced a partnership with Nokia and launched a version of its service optimised for the company’s S40 handsets, which run the third most popular mobile operating system. The new partnership enabled Foursquare to bring its main check in and location sharing features to a new category of markets and reach millions more users. It also looks pretty good!
Here’s one you wouldn’t expect to work on the dumbphone. YouTube’s video service is typically a datahog, but also thanks to BiNu, there’s a pared down version just for dumbphones. The YouTube app lets you search videos, explore the top rated ones and browse by category. However, if you want to do any uploading, commenting or really anything else you do on YouTube, you’ll need the full-featured app on a smartphone. That’s sort of the moral of the story for all these dumbphone apps. They can do whatever you want until they don’t, and then you have to upgrade, which is the most frustrating feature of all.