Program launched in Philippines targets ‘feature phones’
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/19/2012 -- A new service from Google Inc. aims to bring Web access to cellphone users who do not have full Internet service.
The initiative, titled Free Zone, is intended for people who do not have smartphones and do not pay their mobile operator for an Internet data plan.
Google’s service enables cellphone users to go to websites that show up in the search engine’s results without charge. A visit to a site not among Google’s search results will trigger a message offering subscription to the carrier’s Internet services.
Free Zone was started in the Philippines in collaboration with Globe Telecom, a local mobile operator.
Google said it wants to bring greater Web access to billions of people in developing countries.
The program is “aimed at the next billion users of the Internet, many of whom will be in emerging markets and encounter the Internet first on a mobile phone, without ever owning a PC,” Google product manager AbdelKarim Mardini told Reuters.
The two companies hope that more cell phone users will add Internet services if they experience features that offer more than just making calls and sending SMS messages.
Mobile carriers can boost their revenue by selling data services, and Google can cash in on clicks on ads.
Cell phones have been quickly accepted in emerging markets, including the Philippines, but many users do not pay for expensive data plans, especially if they have only a “feature phone” and not a smartphone.
In Southeast Asia, simple feature phones are more common than smartphone, although sales of the latter are rising, according to the GfK Group, a consumer research firm. Only 24% of mobile phones in the Philippines are smartphones.
Google has plans to launch Free Zone service soon in other countries.
Globe Telecom competitor Smart Communications also has offered limited Internet access at a cut-rate price. Users of that service spend 150% than the company’s other subscribers on average in a month.
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