In Finland, I know I’m spoiled with fast and cheap data rates on my smartphone, but the rest of the world is catching up to the connectivity of Northen Europe. Blaast‘s approach to emerging markets is cloud based distribution and processing, which allows feature phones to behave more like smartphones. Their goal is to then provide higher level features and apps for “the next billion users” who cannot afford smartphones or high data rates.
The Helsinki-based company has today announced a few new operator partnerships in Asia, and promotes the growth they’ve already seen in Indonesia. We covered their launch last January, and found they offer an innovative platorm for feature phones.
Blaast today announces they have reached 4 million downloads, and have expanded the number of operators they’ve partnered with. Blaast now has access to an even larger pool of potential users, adding another 30 million subscribers to its network of 46 million users.
An issue with building any new app ecosystem is attracting developers, but Blaast claims to have grown theirs to 4 000 strong. They’ve done so by reaching out to the Indonesian developer community around their launch, and provided interesting pay incentives to developers. Any app can be accessed for free within Blaast, and Blaast then compensates developers based on actual usage, providing recurring revenues for app developers.
All apps are available in one download and are instantly compatible with over 2,000 mobile phone models such as Nokia Asha, Blackberry and hundreds of local brands in emerging markets. Blaast is available to users through a subscripion-based service which averages about $1.50 per month.
Blaast will also soon be available on Android in Q4 2012. The company says that while entry-level Android handsets have become more affordable, their usage still faces challenges due to data price, networks and difficulties in app monetization and hardware limitations.
“Because Blaast’s mobile app platform is cloud-based it is able to make low-end mobile phones smarter by pushing the more complex functions to the cloud. As a result, Blaast requires less memory and data compared to device-based web browsing and native apps,” said Joonas Hjelt, co-founder and CEO of Blaast. “Our approach has really struck a chord with developers as well as operators looking to extend their reach both geographically as well as to the low-end device segment. In fact, we are on course to support over 500 million Blaast-enabled feature phones by 2014.”
Blaast’s investors include the founding engineers of Skype (Ambient Sound Investment), Veturi Venture Accelerator, Steve Blank, and ex-Nokia SVP Pekka Vartiainen.