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In emerging markets, creative browsers put SMS on notice

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The rise of extremely efficient Java-based apps may ultimately lead to a decline in the popularity of text messaging in emerging markets like Africa.


There's already evidence to suggest that the smartphone revolution is taking its toll on text messaging in industrialized markets where services like instant messaging and social networks arguably do a better job of keeping people in touch, but even in emerging markets — places where even 3G data is often nonexistent — the writing may be on the wall. Balancing Act, which reports on telecom development in Africa, writes about the growth of creative solutions like biNu, an app designed to run on some of the simplest feature phones on the market that simulates a set of popular "apps" — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on. The app uses a proxy to compress data before it's sent down to the phone (not unlike Opera Mini or Amazon Silk) with a claimed 10x improvement in bandwidth utilization, making it practical to use over the 2G GPRS networks that still dominate the continent.

In the short term, SMS usage is still growing in many of these markets — both for user-to-user communication and the countless SMS-based services (like Nokia Life Tools) that have proliferated in the last decade — but Balancing Act's suggestion that exposure to richer services through products like biNu will feed into text messaging's eventual decline seems like a sound one. Below, see a video interview with biNu CEO Gour Lentell taken late last year where he discusses how his product is making inroads in places where mobile data is still an entirely foreign concept.