One more reminder of the size of the global market for non-smartphones: Wikipedia announced plans to offer SMS access to its articles, opening up that service to the 75% or so of handsets worldwide that have limited or no access to the web.
On that subject, I refuse to call non-smartphones “dumb” phones, just because they don’t have multitasking operating systems or big app stores. Businesses and consumers around the world are taking advantage of these “no-frills” devices to develop sophisticated financial services and innovative advertising models, in markets.
The financial service case is particularly interesting. As the Washington Post article mentioned above reports, one of the big news items at this year’s Mobile World Congress was the success of mobile payment and banking in developing countries with low smartphone penetration. The simplicity of the technology may even be an advantage, as service providers have focused on core services without being distracted by technical features like NFC. The French company Tagattitude rolled out a mobile payment solution that uses sound to communicate among devices. Their CEO noted (quote from the Post article):
All these phones have a microphone, and all those microphones are capable of capturing data from a financial transaction,” said Yves Eonnet, the voluble chief executive of Tagattitude, showing off the clunky Nokia and several other handsets. “At the end of the day, there is no business model that is sustainable for NFC,” or “near field communication,” an advanced technology used for payments.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my smartphone (Nokia Lumia 800) and find myself quite dependent on all of those fancy features. If you’re in the business of creating mobile solutions, however, it makes sense to not forget that 75%.