Nimbuzz Ping Shows Smartphone Opportunities in Feature Phones

Nimbuzz, a free cross-platform call and messaging mobile application, is zigging while the market is zagging. Today, the company announced Nimbuzz Ping, a push notification feature for feature phone users. With Ping, a Nimbuzz user will appear online to contacts and will generate an SMS notification when another Nimbuzz friend wants to communicate. According to company, the new Ping feature is available for Nimbuzz’s 88 million current users and adds the push functionality to potentially 400 million Symbian (s nok) handsets. Instead of focusing on the highly competitive smartphone users, as so many are these days, Nimbuzz is leveraging the vast feature phone user base.

The Ping feature may be especially appealing to mobile network operators as a potential profit booster, according to the press release:

Ping is free for users to enable inside Nimbuzz and complements Nimbuzz’s “always-on” product nature. While operators provide the SMS alerts, Ping drives up ARPU with a new revenue stream from the additional data use that occurs when customers are prompted to log in to respond to invites, chat messages, or shared files.  Pre-paid operators who primarily carry feature phones can also benefit and compete in the market with offers such as Nimbuzz Ping to deliver instant gratification to their customers.

Given the accelerating growth of smartphone adoption, it’s becoming easier to overlook the lowly feature phones, but there’s still plenty of room for opportunity, both in new applications as well as new services, such as Nimbuzz Ping. While the last quarter likely generated close to 100 million smartphones sold , there are over five billion mobile subscribers around the globe, meaning far more people around the world still use a feature phone of some type. Indeed, Facebook recently realized this reach of feature phones by creating a version of its app that works on more than 2,500 different low-end handsets, as noted in last weekend’s GigaOM Pro report (subscription required) by Colin Gibbs.

Targeting Symbian phones is a smart move on the part of Nimbuzz; the platform currently powers the majority of handsets worldwide, although in the smartphone space, Android is due to soon surpass Symbian in Europe, where the platform is popular. Until that happens, there’s plenty of room for smartphone-like services to land on feature phones.

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