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African mobile social networking giant Mxit has launched the latest version of it J2ME app, which it says draws heavily, when it comes to looks at least, from its Android and BlackBerry 10 apps.
In an official blog post, Mxit says that the updated app comes with a number of new features, including an improved user experience, in line with the Android app and improved profile building with the inclusion of a user’s relationship status.
The most significant changes however appear to be in imaging. People with feature phones will now apparently be able to send and receive large files, view images in higher resolutions, zoom into pictures and use full screen avatars.
Given that the vast majority of Mxit’s users are still on feature phones, updating the J2ME experience makes sense. The question is, how much longer can it keep devoting resources to J2ME? Given that the platform has a heavy African focus, it’s likely that there will be feature phone users for some time yet.
But there’s no avoiding the fact that smartphones are getting cheaper and arriving in more hands. A potential influx of cheap, Chinese “beige boxes” could mean that will happen faster than anyone is currently expecting.
That’s great news for tech on the continent, but not such great news for a platform that hasn’t always got things right when it comes to smartphones. Neither is the fact that it’s now having to compete on its home-turf with the likes of Tencent’s WeChat, which has over 300-million users around the world and seems to have the mix between social network and instant messaging tool waxed.
Add in a player like 2go, which has more users in Nigeria than Facebook and you can see how much of a battle Mxit is facing when it comes to remaining the top player in its space.