A new service has been launched by Google which it hopes will encourage more people from developing countries to access the internet through mobile phones. Free Zone will initially be launched in the Philippines through Globe Telecom, a local carrier. Users with basic mobiles which can access the internet with limited functionality will be able to gain access to some of Google’s products like email, search and Google+. However, although users will have free access to links through Google search, any links outside this will prompt a message inviting users to sign up and subscribe to a data plan.
According to Google’s product manager Abdel Karim Mardini, the free service is aimed mainly at people in developing countries who use their mobiles mainly to send SMS messages and make calls. It is believed that a billion users will be able to access the internet from their mobile without the need to own a PC.
It is the aim of Globe and Google to encourage users to move beyond the free services and subscribe to other services. Research carried out by GFK Group indicates that although the sales of smartphones in South East Asia are increasing rapidly, users are still opting for the basic feature phones which are cheaper.
If Google’s new service is a success, initially in the Philippines then elsewhere in the world, it could make some SEO jobs more complex. The search engine optimisation of companies around the world will have to be considered carefully to include the much wider audience.