The news this week that Facebook announced 100 million users for Facebook for Every Phone should have come as no surprise. By the end of 2014, there will be more mobile devices than people on earth , and a large proportion of these devices are being sold in emerging markets, where growth is already strong and getting stronger. The countries in which simple phone software is doing the best, - India, Brazil, Mexico - are among the fastest-growing markets for the use of internet and social networks.
More than 100 million people now regularly access Facebook from more than 3,000 different models of feature phone, demonstrating the complexity and fragmentation of much of the world's mobile web access today. Facebook, like many other brands, has a powerful opportunity to win the long-term loyalty and increased engagement of new global users by enabling them to access their services via a simple feature phone.
The importance of providing a legacy experience to all mobile users cannot be underestimated; many organisations fail to recognise how long it actually takes for new devices to reach full market saturation point when designing their mobile website. The latest Netbiscuits Web Trends Report, based on a sample of over a billion page requests, found that the most popular device globally is the iPhone 4S, which is already 21 months old. The iPhone 5 has still not made it into the global top 25 of devices despite shifting five million units in its first week of sales. Having a legacy mobile experience for established handset users is just as important as having a high-tech and advanced experience for fast adopters of new technology, otherwise you risk alienating customers from your brand. While being prepared for new devices is highly commendable, brands must not forget to provide experiences for older devices, particularly when emerging markets are still so reliant on them.
Constant advances in technology have led to growing expectations from mobile, and many companies are battling with the shift of their customers away from desktop computers. Facebook has come particularly far in its approach to mobile, considering that up until a couple of years ago, the only way to sign up for the service was through a Web browser. The company eventually recognised the demand for mobile services, especially from consumers in countries where access to computers is rare, and access to expensive smartphones even more so.
Facebook for Every Phone highlights the importance of catering to all customers, no matter how they are accessing your services. Facebook has gained 100 million monthly users in just two years simply by putting some effort into an interface that works on feature phones. Brands have to accept that today's web consumption experience comes in all shapes and sizes, and their strategy must reflect this. Brands should be developing for users across a multitude of smartphone, tablet and feature phones, with the mobile experience reflecting device capability.