Smartphones vs. Feature Phones and Why It Matters

When you hear cell phone or mobile phone what first comes to your mind…..?

^^^ This? ^^^
Thin sleek phones with big touch screens and nearly zero buttons other than a full keyboard?

We thought so. You know how any type of soda can be referred to as “Coke,” especially in the South? It seems that “iPhone” or “Droid” is quickly capturing the overall mobile phone lingo.

But there is one important thing to remember. There is another type of phone that was here long before the smartphone–the feature phone. (Remember the Motorla RAZAR?) And it is essential to understand the difference to grasp the idea of Mobile SEO. (stay tuned for our July newsletter article titled “SEO Dependent on Device”)

Both feature phones and smartphones perform necessary functions of phones, such as calling and texting, but the distinction we want to emphasize is their Internet browsing.

Feature phones access the web via on-deck or built-in browsers provided through the carrier’s web portal. Meaning the internet will come from At&t, Verizon, etc. While smartphones use off-deck browsers, or “normal” desktop web browsing that the cell phone provider does not have control over. For example, iPhones uses Safari for the web browsing. Safari is the web browswer for Mac desktops.

This difference affects search engines. Google has two types of “search bots” (a crawler that browses the web) because there are on-deck and off-deck web portals.

The 2 bots:

  • Googlebot: used to search the off-deck web (desktops, smartphones)
  • Googlebot-Mobile: used to the search on-deck web (feature phones)

Each requiring different SEO implementation to rank high in searches. We know what you’re thinking, “I only want to focus on Googlebot because smartphones are more popular and I only need one SEO approach.”

Only half true. Among cell phone owners, 53% own a smartphone as of February 2012, so smartphones are more popular–BUT because of the exponential growth of smartphones, Google released a smartphone user-agent to add into Googlebot-Mobile in December 2011.

So now there is:

  • Googlebot: used to search the “normal” desktop web
  • Googlebot-mobile: used to search the feature phone web
    AND
  • Googlebot-mobile smartphone user agent: used to search the web rendered on smartphones.

There are 3 levels of searches, which is why optimizing for mobile (smartphones!) is essential, as well as understanding the difference between feature phones and smartphones is important.

Read more about Googlebot-Mobile smartphone user agent in our upcoming July Newsletter!

If you want to know more about mobile marketing for your business, contact Stellar Blue’s team to discuss.

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