Monday, 4 April 2011

Facebook reaching out to feature-phone users


If you access Facebook via the Web browser on a "feature phone" -- a simpler, less powerful cousin to the smartphone -- your experience might improve significantly over the next few weeks.

On Friday, Facebook announced an upgrade to its "lean" mobile site m.facebook.com. This upgrade integrates the full range of features found in Facebook's mobile site for smartphones and other phones with touchscreen browsers: touch.facebook.com.

This update is being rolled out gradually to Facebook users. Facebook product designer Lee Byron explained: "With the new m.facebook.com, users with high-end touch devices will see a rich touch-friendly interface; for users with feature phones, the site will look and work great. ...There will no longer be a difference between m.facebook.com and touch.facebook.com, we'll automatically serve you the best version of the site for your device."

Here's why this is a smart move -- one that I wish more online sites and services would emulate.
Too often, as popular sites and services upgrade their mobile offerings, they cater primarily to smartphone users -- which means they end up leaving the vast majority of mobile users further behind. According to new numbers from ComScore, currently only 29% of handsets in use in the U.S. are smartphones.

A brief definition: While the lines between the two types of devices are becoming blurred, smartphones are defined as having operating systems capable of running "native" apps with a wide range of sophisticated functions, and fully featured web browsers (usually based on the Webkit browser). Feature phones tend to be cheaper, simpler, and more limited."

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