Having unveiled its iPhone5 yesterday, Apple has only fueled industry chatter around smartphone technology and OS upgrades. But, Australian startup biNu has something different in mind – instead of working with new operating systems on new phones as the foundation of its business; biNu is pioneering a mission to make every phone a smartphone.
Who even remembers the last phone they owned that didn’t have Internet access, email, or data storage? Fact is, the majority of phones in use today are still basic, “dumb” phones. According to Gartner, only 25% of the 4.3 billion phones in use worldwide are “smart.”
Many of these dumb phones run on 2G networks and do have web browsing capabilities, though with much slower connections and simpler, mobile-geared interfaces.
They might run Java-based apps, but don’t have the power or bandwidth to support the advanced kind of apps we’re accustomed to on the Android or iOS. Despite these limitations (as we see it), dumb phones are still the dominant way people in developing countries access the Internet.
biNu is attempting to close this digital divide by putting mobile apps in the cloud and giving dumb phone owners the ability to access them through an amazon-hosted virtual app, which biNu claims can run on almost any phone. What’s more, by shifting local data processing to distant servers, biNu’s application optimizes these slower networks to match the Internet speed we experience on our smartphones. Users can simply download the app through a WAP browser or an SMS message. While the app is free, users must to pay for consumed data, often through prepaid phone plans.
Innovating wireless tech for social impact, biNu’s founders are driven by a passion to “help bring the reality of the Internet, along with its educational and social benefits, to everyone.” Since launching in 2008, biNu has seen explosive growth over the past year, having achieved over 4.2 million unique users in August. Its usage statistics point to India as its top country, which registered some 68.1 million page views earlier this year. It’s followed by Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia with 36.8M, 23.9M, 23.1M and 16.3M page views respectively. biNu’s top app? You guessed it – Facebook, followed by Google Search. Some of its other top 10 apps include biNu messenger, Google Translate, News, YouTube and Twitter.
Considering the majority number of basic mobile phones in use today, there’s no doubt biNu has enough potential users to market its application to. But, with the rapid proliferation of smartphone technology – even in developing countries, it will be interesting to see whether this project sees any longevity over the following years.