Twitter arrives for phones without Internet connection


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No Internet connection on your mobile phone? No worries. You will now be able to access Twitter without a data plan. Twitter is reportedly tying up with U2opia Mobile to make this feature possible in emerging markets.

Reuters reports that U2opia Mobile, a Singapore-based startup will help make Twitter accessible on low-end and entry-level mobile phones now. Previously, the startup worked with Facebook on a similar tie-up. The service should be coming sometime in the first quarter of 2014.

No Internet? No problem!

Users will essentially need to dial a simple code in order to get a feed of popular trending topics on Twitter. The method will use USSD or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data to achieve this. Of course, images and videos do not work with the USSD method. While this may seem like a hindrance for many services, since Twitter is a text-heavy social network, USSD seems like a perfect idea. "USSD as a vehicle for Twitter is almost hand in glove because Twitter has by design a character limit, it's a very text-driven social network," Chief Executive and Co-founder of U2opia Mobiles, Sumesh Menon said.

U2opia Mobiles had earlier created a service called Fonetwish that uses USSD to deliver Facebook messages and updates to mobile phones. It also allows Google Talk to work on phones. About 11 million people globally use the Fonetwish service. Menon said that eight out of 10 people in emerging markets still do not have a data plan for their phones. This move could well eliminate that need and change the way social networks are used on phones.

While Twitter – which has just gone public – may have a huge presence in developed countries, it is still seeing moderately steady growth in emerging markets like Brazil, India and Indonesia. The steep prices and lack of data access in places like these is one of the major reasons of slow growth of social networks here.

Facebook has been one of these social networks to try and circumvent these problems. It tied-up with several service providers as well as provided SMS and USSD facilities in order to allow users with no smartphones or entry level ones to access Facebook. Twitter seems to be following this mantra too now. "For a lot of end users in the emerging markets, it's going to be their first Twitter experience," Menon said.​