While the smartphone revolution is well established in most mature mobile markets, there’s still a long way to go in some countries, particularly in some Asian regions where the transition from feature phones is not moving as quickly.
But a new partnership between Google and Globe Telecom in the Philippines promises to bring a number of Google’s internet services – namely Gmail, Google search, and Google Plus – to feature phone users in that country. ‘Free Zone powered by Google’ is a mobile internet bundle now offered by Globe that does not come with any data charges.
Users can access the service by visiting libre.ph on internet-enabled phones, or by texting ‘LIBRE’ to 8888. The offer will be available until March 31 2013.
The Philippines still just has about 30 percent of the population using smartphones, so there’s still a big opportunity here for anyone who wants to tap into that market. If this initiative is well received, you can probably expect to see Google offer this product in other markets as well. My guess for likely candidates would be India and Indonesia.
As we heard from Alvin Yap (of TMG and Kotagames) recently, there is indeed money to be made by going after the feature phone market. He appears to be doing just that in the gaming space in Indonesia.
Another similar service is Fonetwish, a service that allows users to access Facebook without a data plan. Its users are primarily based in India and Indonesia.