As Smartphones Saturate, The Big Opportunity Is Dumbphones

With smartphones increasingly saturated by marketing apps and marketing services, the biggest opportunity in mobile may be in feature phones (so-called "dumbphones") that still make up half of worldwide mobile phone sales, according to Quartz.

For example, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is working on a service called "Facebook for Every Phone" that will eventually make use of the fact that more and more feature phones can connect to the Internet to offer smartphone-like experiences such as images, updates and chat. In addition, the number of feature phones that can connect to the actual World Wide Web has risen from 2 percent to about 25 percent.

What's not clear is how lucrative any effort to market to feature phone users is likely to be. Smartphones make an easy mobile marketing target because their users presumably have enough disposable income to buy a smartphone (and pay the hefty price for a data plan). Feature phones, by process of elimination, are more likely to be used by the poor and in third-world countries.

That may not be exactly true but, more important, it may have become irrelevant. As smartphone competition has whittled down the targets for apps to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and generic HTML, there's more and more noise as retailers try to reach the same potential customers.

In addition, a smartphone is no longer a signal that its customer is a prime potential customer, especially as phone buyers are able to get a low-end data plan and pay off their phone over the life of the contract. (Besides, if you're trying to sell burgers, pizza, groceries or a wide variety of other retail items, you don't need six-figure incomes—you need lots of customers through the door.)

One other advantage to leveraging "dumbphones": Eventually many of their users will graduate to smartphones or tablets. If they're already connecting with a retailer before they make that switch, there won't be a need to cut through the noise to get them to download the retailer's app—they'll already be hooked.

For more:

- See this Quartz story

Related stories:

Best Buy's Facebook Promo The Victim Of Its Own Great Deal
Text Messages Are Drying Up In China. Can the U.S. Be Next?