Social networking services like Facebook, Twitter and Instant Messaging have been turned into SIM-based applications that work via SMS text messages. For users of low-end devices, sometimes called "feature phones," "messaging phones" or even "dumb phones," these new technologies will soon enable them to keep up with their smartphone-toting counterparts by expanding access to the most popular social networks in use today.
Gemalto's Facebook for SIM
From Gemalto, a new product called Facebook for SIM is being touted as the "world's only Facebook-certified SIM based application," which provides access to the social networking service over any GSM handset without the need for a data plan. Instead, the embedded software resides on the SIM card itself and uses SMS technology to access Facebook's core features like friend requests, status updates, wall posts and messages. Users can also access their phone's address book from the app in order to send them friend requests.
In addition, Facebook for SIM lets people sign up for Facebook for the first time using the SIM application. Since everything works over SMS, when new messages appear, they pop-up on the phone's screen.
The technology doesn't require a monthly fee, but works on a subscription model where you have unlimited access to Facebook for a set amount of time. The service also doesn't require your phone to be paid for via monthly contract - it can even work on prepaid devices.
"Facebook for SIM enables operators to leverage two of their main assets: the SMS to communicate with the Web application and the SIM for application distribution to the masses," said Philippe Vallée, Executive Vice President, Gemalto. "Over 200 million people already use Facebook on handsets and those are twice as active as non-mobile users . By providing anytime, anywhere availability to the social network, Gemalto delivers on the growing demand for mobile connectivity all over the world."
Facebook for SIM joins another Gemalto product which brings Instant Messaging from Windows Live Messenger to SIM-based handsets as well.
SIM-Based Facebook & Twitter from Oberthur Technologies
Gemalto isn't the only company with this idea, either, despite its claim. Also at Mobile World Congress was Oberthur Technologies, a company which, too, is offering social networking and Instant Messaging services via SIM-based applications. The service supports Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo Instant Messaging.
From one menu, a user can access either of the three supported services and then find friends, update their status, chat, reply to messages, read friends' new posts, and more. Like Gemalto's solution, new messages come through immediately, even when the user exits the SIM application.
While these SIM applications aren't as sexy as a new iPhone app, the technology could lead to a massive influx of new users on Facebook and Twitter as they enable a large market to participate in social networking without the expense of a smartphone phone or monthly plan.