updated 11:38 am EST, Thu November 8, 2012
Service lets basic phones access Google services for free
Google has started a new service, with an initial rollout in the Philippines, that will allow users of basic cell phones to access Google services such as search, e-mail, Google+, and others for free. Called Free Zone, it is being launched at Globe Telecom. Sites that are returned via a Google search can be free to access without a data plan, while inputting specific sites would ask them to pay for a data plan.
The service is meant to cater to first-time Internet users in emerging markets who have never owned a PC and get their first experience on a phone. With Free Zone, Google and Globe Telecom hope to entice such users, who are in their billions, to use phones for more than just phone calls and text messages and sign up for the more lucrative data plans as well.
The plan is to roll out Free Zone to other countries in the near term as well, though which ones they are isn't yet specified. It's fair to assume the US won't get it, however.
A similar scheme already proved successful, with Smart Communications in the Philippines launching a pared down Internet service last year and then finding that half a million users spent as much as 150 percent more per month on average than other subscribers, Reuters reported.