Singapore: Google on Thursday launched a service it hopes will bring millions of people in the developing world to access the internet — and Google’s ads — via basic mobile phones.
Google launches the service called Free Zone first in the Philippines through a local provider. The service allows phones with an Internet connection but limited funGlobe Telecomctionality to access basic Google products such as search, email and the Google+ social networking service for free.
Users could access sites that appear in Google’s search results for free, but any site outside of those results would trigger an invitation to subscribe to the carrier’s data plan.
“It’s aimed at the next billion internet users, many of whom live in emerging markets and will first experience the internet on a mobile phone without ever owning a PC,” AbdelKarim Mardini, Google’s product manager, told Reuters.
By offering a free tier of services, Google and Globe hope that they will entice feature phone users to go beyond just making calls and texting to sign up for internet services.
Such services are more lucrative for carriers. Google makes most of its money from ads on websites. There are plans to roll out the service to other countries soon.
While developing countries like the Philippines have been enthusiastic early adopters of cell phones, there are still millions who either use phones that are too basic to use for internet service, or are reluctant to pay for more expensive services.
According to the consulting firm IDC, phones with Google’s Android operating system now account for three quarters of all smartphones shipped. But that still leaves a lot of phones.
The GfK Group, a research firm that measures consumer habits, reported in September that while smartphone sales are growing rapidly in Southeast Asia, lower-end feature phones still outperform their more expensive counterparts.
The Philippines, for example, saw a triple growth in smartphones in the 12 months to September, but despite increasing their share, such devices still accounted for only 24% of all handsets.
Globe and Google aren’t the only players in the Philippines targeting non-smartphone users by offering them a cheaper way to access internet services.
For example, since launching a slimmed-down internet service last year, Globe rival Smart Communications said the half million users who signed up spent an average of 150% more per month than its other subscribers.
If you liked reading With Free Zone, Google reaches the “next billion”
Please share with your friends and family.