Foursquare Checks In With Feature Phones: A New App For Nokia S40 Phones And An Asha Preloading Deal

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Foursquare has made a name for itself out of the growth in smartphones, but as it tries to build up business in newer markets, it’s covering all of its bases. Today the company announced an update to its app for feature phones, specifically for Nokia’s range of S40 devices — which include its Asha handsets, sold and marketed as low-end smartphones. It looks like this may have been the first time in years that this app has gotten attention. Along with the new app, Foursquare also inked a deal with Nokia to come preloaded on new Asha devices when they hit the market in coming months.

While Nokia’s Symbian smartphone platform has died, and while Windows Phone (Nokia’s new smartphone platform of choice) has yet to gain much critical mass, S40 is actually putting up a respectable performance. According to these figures from StatCounter, it’s third after Android and iOS for worldwide mobile platform market share, with 13.9 percent of the market at the moment.

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 22.24.24

Looking at how that breaks down in different countries, the picture is more interesting and points to how a strong presence on these devices could be a good way specifically for targeting users in emerging markets. Again, from StatCounter:

mobile os map

“Hundreds of millions of people around the world use Nokia S40 phones, and now they’ll all have access to Foursquare,” the company writes in the blog post. “Now, all those people can use Foursquare to make the most of where they are and where they’re going.”

For a company like Foursquare, fighting for mindshare among smartphone users and their millions of apps, going into slightly less-crowded territory like this is a smart move, all the while helping it continue to achieve critical mass for its location services, advertising and more. It also refocuses a little more attention on Nokia’s other line of business in a week when all eyes are on what it might reveal on the 11th — quite possibly Nokia’s most high-end smartphone yet.

Still, it’s a move that appears to be a more recent decision. When I met CEO Dennis Crowley back in 2012 during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, he was squarely focused on building out new products, making use of all the fancy gadgetry of smartphones and not focusing on lower-end devices.

Fast forward a year to February 2013, he admitted that the company hadn’t done any proper work on low-end devices in years. “We have a bare bones one that is not very pretty, which supports feature phones. We’ve had that since 2009,” he told me. “It’s not super sexy. We think our stuff is so niche that for now we don’t have HTML5 in our strategy. We’re a small team so we have to focus on where our users are.”

Looks like that focus has expanded to pick up new users, some on feature phones.