Home Facebook Partners with Orange to Bring Smartphones to Emerging Markets

Facebook Partners with Orange to Bring Smartphones to Emerging Markets

Facebook is partnering with French cellular operator Orange to bring cheap cellphones with dedicated Facebook functionality to emerging markets in Africa and Europe. Orange will release three devices with a special “F” button for unlimited Facebook access to 15 countries starting in the fourth quarter of 2011. The move fits well in line with Facebook’s desire to increase its presence worldwide to people that may not have access to a computer but access the Internet solely through mobile devices.

The phones will be from Alcatel’s series of Android phones. These are not feature phones with Facebook integration but actual economy class smartphones. The roadmap for Facebook in the emerging world is clear: get smartphones in the hands of people everywhere and an easy avenue to access the social platform.

Facebook is at 800 million users and is looking to be the first individual dedicated platform to reach the 1 billion user mark (Google resources notwithstanding). We have been covering Facebook’s attempt to penetrate emerging markets with smartphones throughout 2011. In March, Facebook acquired Israeli Snaptu that creates applications for feature phones. In July we learned of Facebook for Every Phone that is fruit of the Snaptu acquisition.

This new partnership with Orange is not about feature phones though. The Acatel One Touch series phones are smartphones of the lower-end Android variety. Each has nominal specs that could be expected in a smartphone, from a QWERTY keyboard, a 2 megapixel camera with digital zoom, MP3 player with storage of up to 600 songs, MMS and group messaging capabilities. The particular specs differ between the three models but more or less come in the minimum viable Android phone category.

Each phone will be sold at less than 100 euros and data plans will be different between each carrier country. What Orange is promising though is that each phone will have unlimited access to Facebook.

This is mature move from Facebook in reaching across the ocean to partner with a major European carrier. To a certain extent the move by Orange is a form of commercial imperialism. Bring cheap phones with a big carrot (Facebook) to emerging markets like Armenia, Botswana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Niger, Reunion, Sengegal, Tunisia and Uganda. European markets that will be served included France, Spain, Poland and Romania.

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