Feature Phones: Mobile Advertising’s Biggest Opportunity

IMAGE: Indian Man dressed in white shirt and khaki pants smiles as he holds out his feature phone.

Despite the fact that smartphones made up half of all handset shipments worldwide last year, feature phones still make the majority of the mobile device market. Seven out of eight mobile phone users will be using a feature phone, which leaves one obvious question:

Are you tapping into the feature phone market yet?

While smartphones are taking the world by storm and have truly taken hold in most Western markets, advertising is currently facing a massive misconception on their real popularity. Globally, smart phones are still wildly outnumbered by feature phones and full global saturation could take years or even decades. Even in 2017, a third of all mobile phone shipments will still be feature phones, according to the IDC. It’s important for brands to consider this often overlooked market when considering a mobile action plan. Maximising device compatibility and accessibility means accessing not only the market of the future, but the predominant market of the present.

How big is the feature phone market?

2013 was the first year that smart phone shipments outpaced feature phones globally – but it was by an extremely narrow margin. In many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and Africa, feature phones are still consistently outselling smartphones. In the third quarter of 2014, for example, feature phones still had a 68 per cent share of the Indian mobile marketplace.

In India, 81 per cent of its 815 million mobile users are on feature phones. Likewise, 89 per cent of Nigerians, 88 per cent of Kenyans, 78 per cent of Brazilians and 70 per cent of Indonesians are on feature phones, according to BuzzCity.

Global companies like Facebook have seen the significance of the feature phone market. In 2011 they launched their Facebook For Every Phone app, that allows feature phone users to access their service. By July 2013, it had hit 100 million downloads. Thanks to their ability to adapt and create products that promote accessibility, Facebook is seeing massive growth throughout developing areas like Indonesia, India and the Philippines.

The BBC has described feature phones as a ‘low tech goldmine‘.

What opportunities do feature phones present for brands?

In countries where feature phones have the most popularity, an outstanding amount of the population accesses the internet exclusively through mobile devices. As a result the traffic on the mobile web is high, as is entertainment consumption. In India, 74 per cent of the market prefers to view video content through their mobile devices, higher than the global average of 67 per cent. In countries with high mobile-only internet access, mobile advertising has higher effectiveness. Not to mention that click-through rates on the mobile web are much higher for feature phones than smartphones, partly because feature phone users are less likely to use apps than their smartphone counterparts.

International brands or brands which are specifically targeting emerging countries have the most to gain from video advertising on feature phones. Brands who target feature phone audiences in these areas can tap into an unfettered market that can’t be met by other methods. When promoting an advertising campaign, look for an ad network with cross-device compatibility.

How can publishers monetise feature phone traffic?

As data plans become more affordable and mobile phone battery life improves, consumers are becoming inseparable from their mobile devices as a source of information and entertainment. Mobile web SDKs and feature phone app SDKs allow publishers to unlock revenue from the traffic they’re already receiving on their content.

Despite this, the majority of mobile developers overlook the feature phone market because of the desire to produce the bigger, better, faster and stronger. Only a handful of developers have stepped back and taken a full look at the mobile market and, in turn, focused on making their software feature phone inclusive. AdSpruce, the dedicated mobile video ad network, is one of those developers. Their SDK is compatible with over 15,000 mobile devices, including the most popular feature phones in the Asia-Pacific market.

Publishers can tap into the low tech goldmine of feature phones by carefully selecting the right ad network.


Feature phones represent a huge portion of the present market and aren’t going to be going out of circulation anytime soon. The huge second-hand market means that feature phones will be around for decades yet. Especially in the APAC and African markets. Both, brands and publishers, can maximise their revenue by making sure they’ve established their mobile presence to be feature phone friendly and easily accessible. Not doing so means missing out on a lucrative market area that will continue to be popular in emerging countries for years to come.

Interested in setting either your brand or yourself up for the feature phone market? AdSpruce can help with its mobile network. Have more to add to the conversation? Contact us in the comments below or via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.   

Ryan Davies

Author Ryan Davies

Marketing guy and coffee addict. I help brands reach consumers and help content owners monetise their mobile websites at AdSpruce. To chat about AdSpruce, Marketing, Mobile Video Advertising or any other topic you can find Ryan on Google+ or get in touch via Twitter (@ryan_adspruce)

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