Feature Phones Are Dead, Long Live Feature Phones!

The research company IHS announced last August that smartphones will seize more than half of the mobile device marketplace in 2013. During the same month data from carriers confirmed that over 50% of the mobile phones used in the USA are smartphones. Even though Android and iOS powered devices are taking over, nothing will change overnight. There will still be billions of feature phones in use during the upcoming years.

The first reason why feature phones are not yet dying out is data connections. The main advantage of smartphones - apps and cloud services - are mostly useful only when the user is connected to the internet. Looking at worldwide data from Ericsson, 3G connections (WCDMA/HSPA) are currently available only to ~45% of people in the world. Even though the prediction says ~85% of people will have access to 3G by 2017, this still means four years of billions of people not having full functionality on their smartphones.

Secondly, there will always be people who prefer older technologies. Even though the idea of a “post-PC era” of tablets and smartphones widely circulates in the media, there are still 350M traditional PCs (desktops & laptops) sold annually. Nokia just recently announced a new 20$ feature phone. The benefits of older technologies is that they are often cheaper and more durable. In emerging economies, this can be the key factor for deciding which phone to purchase. What does this mean for developers?

From the perspective of mobile payments, feature phones should not be discarded yet. There are 3 billion mobile phones running Java globally and enabling users to pay on these devices can help expand revenue. In addition to payments made over the Internet on such devices, games built on J2ME can also be potentially lucrative.

Since feature phones are not going anywhere during the next few years, we have created a customized payment flow of Fortumo web payments for use on feature phones. The solution automatically recognizes when a feature phone environment is being used and morphs itself to enable payments on phones without in-app payment capabilities. Click here to see what the payment flow looks like in a feature phone.

All you need to do to your existing Fortumo web payment integrations is to add the v=wap parameter to force the feature phone friendly flow, but as stated early, we will do this automatically if we see a feature phone.

There is no reason to leave billions of feature phones out of the mobile payments ecosystem. If you want to make sure that even more people have access to your payments, check out how to integrate payments for feature phones in our Developers Portal. If you have not yet signed up with Fortumo, click here to do so for completely free.