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South American with a dumb phone? Think Facebook can't get to you? THINK AGAIN

Securo-biz Gemalto offers SIM-based FBook Messenger app

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Digital security outfit Gemalto has extended its SIM-based Facebook client to include Facebook Messenger, so dumbphone users can chat directly to each other as well as update each other's walls.

Gemalto's LinqUp SIM app has already connected Facebook to basic handsets in Argentina, Colombia and Chile, enabling the cheapest of hardware to use the biggest of social networks, but now there's a new version which will let those handsets join the conversation, rather than just spraying graffiti around the place.

The power of SIM applications is that they run on any GSM phone. Even the most basic of dumb handsets can handle SIM Toolkit apps which means (very nearly) any GSM phone can become Facebook-enabled with Gemalto's app.

The drawback is in interfacing. The SIM Toolkit can ask the phone to display a text menu, and collect selections as well as the contents of text fields, but that's about it. The SIM can also ask the handset for an IP connection to the internet, but the LinqUp app uses (silent, Class 2) SMS instead so it can be deployed in areas where data connectivity is an unnecessary luxury.

Such areas include Argentina, where mobe telco Telecom Personal has been selling LinqUp SIMs (without messaging) for almost two years.

Operators doing similar things in South America include Tigo and Entel in Colombia and Chile respectively. Gemalto won't tell us how many Facebook users are SIM dependent, but did say that they're young - 90 per cent being under 34, despite the fact that half of the Facebook users in those countries are older than 34.

We’re obliged to assume that's a good thing, though it probably means young people can't afford posh phones. We're also told that the LinqUp app consistently rates higher than the smartphone equivalents, but that can only be because LinqUp users are more impressed by the functionality as text menus don't generally impress that much.

SIM toolkit apps are much underused, and smartphones have rendered them redundant in many markets, but Facebook is proving popular in places where computers, and connectivity, aren't available so a SIM solution is the best solution.

Operators charge for the service - generally a monthly fee rather than a per-message rate – but it's up to them. Sadly Gemalto can't update the deployed Facebook-supporting SIMs, so any operator interested in handing them out to customers will have to figure in the cost of replacing their SIM stock – which (for Gemalto) is rather the point. ®

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