Feb. 15, 2011 at 12:40 PM ET
Six-hundred million Facebook users isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion potential Facebook users — which is what may happen now that the social network has been built into a SIM card, which means you don't need a smart phone to access it. Dumb phone users, rejoice! You too can now air out all your dirty laundry, share your random thoughts and your day on your status updates or organize social activism via text messages.
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where not just smart, but brilliant phones are coming out left and right, digital security company Gemalto announced "Facebook for SIM," which embeds Facebook on SIM cards. This provides a way for feature phone users ("dumb" non-OS phones that make calls and send SMS messages vs. "smart" ones that are Web-enabled and loaded with apps) to be a part of Facebook on the go.
As Gemalto explains:
The innovative solution provides mobile subscribers with simple and convenient access to core Facebook features such as friend requests, status updates, wall posts or messages. It also offers unique functions: people can sign up for this service and log in directly from the SIM application. Interactive Facebook messages pop-up on the phone’s screen so people can always share up-to-the-minute posts and events. One can also automatically search their SIM phonebook for other friends and send them requests.
Even though smart phone sales are booming, feature phones still account for the majority of the world's 5 billion mobile phone users. Those who couldn't get on Facebook through their phone before because they needed a data contract or app download can do so now.
This means a whole new world of potential users to immerse themselves in news feeds, likes and oversharing. SIM cards for Facebook also bring the social network to less developed parts of the world where mobile phones are much more plentiful than computers, and are the main method of communication.
More than 50 percent of Asian and African mobile Internet users, as well as more than 20 percent of users in developed markets, such as the UK and U.S., don't access the Internet on a computer, according to On Device Research. In many developing countries, mobile-only users dominate, with the highest percentage in Egypt at 70 percent and India at 59 percent. We've already seen what Facebook can do through the protests and unseating of a dictator in Egypt, and no doubt, this will really help Facebook expand its reach in countries where it competes with other social networks.
With "more than 200 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices," (according to Facebook's own statistics) Geamalto's innovation may very well drive up those numbers. They're counting on Facebook's observation that, "People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users."
It's not the first time Facebook has shown up on feature phones, but Gemalto's SIM card eliminates the need for an app download. Facebook came out with the Facebook for Feature Phones app in January, and it works on more than 2,500 devices from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG and other manufacturers.
After a free trial period, Gemalto's SIM will be available through a subscription for unlimited passes for different durations.
As if this development won't all but guarantee more FB'ers, Facebook phones, once denied, are now being unveiled in all their glory at MWC, including the HTC ChaCha and Salsa. Mark Zuckerberg gave a recorded message at the event that declared more "phones with a deeper social integration" coming in 2011, with "multiple devices" due and possibly even as many as a dozen, according to Gizmodo's Gary Cutlack.
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