Facebook expands capabilities for feature phones, adds support for pages and places

Facebook recently updated its feature phones mobile app to allow users to interact with pages and check into locations, according to posts on the company’s Facebook for Every Phone page.

Facebook for Every Phone” is a native mobile app compatible with more than 3,600 different Java-enabled feature phones. Previously, the app included the ability to upload photos, read News Feed, view profiles, check messages, see event invites and take other basic actions with your friends, but it did not support fan pages or check-ins.

Now these users can Like pages, view their friends’ Likes and see posts from pages they Like in their mobile News Feed. They can also share check-ins along with a status. Users cannot yet share photos with location information or tag other users in a check-in. Still, these are powerful features for a large demographic of users who do not have smartphones or — as is the case for many users in developing countries — personal computers.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, Facebook for Every Phone had 39.7 million monthly active users, according to AppData. Facebook no longer provides daily or monthly usage data about its native apps, but it’s worth noting that the Facebook for Every Phone fan page has more than 75.9 million Likes. Users are given the option to Like the page when they first log-in using the app, a company spokesperson tells us. Despite only being launched on Jan. 20, Facebook for Every Phone is now the most-Liked page on the site, beating out the general Facebook fan page and pages of popular celebrities, according to our PageData service.

It’s important for Facebook to continue to improve its offerings for feature phones and the mobile web, not just iOS and Android apps. As the social network grows in markets like India and Africa, where users are primarily accessing the site through feature phones, the company needs to continue to offer new features as it has done to increase engagement among desktop and smartphone users. Pages and location sharing are ways for users to interact with entities besides friends. These features are also related to monetization, since they allow Facebook to collect additional data about users’ interests and offline behavior so that it can deliver relevant ads to them in the future.

Facebook initially overhauled its app for feature phones in January 2011, in partnership with Snaptu. It then acquired the Israeli startup three months later and rebranded the feature phone app as Facebook for Every Phone in July 2011. The app included new features, and Facebook made deals with carriers to offer users 90 days of free data access. The app was designed to require less data transfer than mobile sites or Java apps, so low costs likely encouraged users to pay for access after the free trial expired.

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