MediaTek to preload Twitter into feature phones to tap emerging markets

MediaTek has made similar deals with Facebook and Gameloft

Taiwan's MediaTek, a designer of mobile processors, plans to help bring Twitter to lower-end feature phones, by pre-installing the social media service on to the company's chipsets.

The two companies announced the new partnership on Wednesday, with Twitter stating the deal would help bring its services to users in emerging markets. The first MediaTek chip to integrate the Twitter service will be its MT6255 product, but the company plans to eventually preload Twitter on all its mobile processor platforms.

By including Twitter, MediaTek wants to improve the smartphone-like functionality of feature phones that are priced at US$50 or lower, said company spokeswoman Sharon Lo.

Last year, MediaTek made a similar partnership with Facebook in order to integrate the social networking company's services into lower-end phones. MediaTek has also teamed up with Gameloft to preload certain games on to its chips.

"In the emerging markets, there are a lot of consumers that can't afford a smartphone, and so they are still using Facebook or Twitter through their notebook or PC," Lo said. MediaTek's new partnerships, however, will help change that, making feature phones using the company's chips capable of accessing popular Internet services.

MediaTek has said the Twitter app will be consistent in experience with Twitter for iPhone or Android. Although it targets emerging markets, the Twitter integration will be available worldwide, according to Lo.

The Twitter integration, however, will be absent in China, where the social networking service is currently blocked by authorities. Instead, MediaTek has integrated other local Chinese social networking services into its processors, according to Lo.

MediaTek shipped 500 million chipsets last year, with about 95 percent for feature phones, said CK Lu, an analyst with research firm Gartner. For feature phones, many of the company's customers are low-end "white box" vendors, which register their products without a brand name.

With the Twitter integration, MediaTek has sought to make its feature phones more competitive by incorporating smartphone-like features, Lu said. But the strategy will only work in the short-term, given that smartphones use is growing in emerging markets like Eastern Europe.

"In the end, maybe starting next year, low-cost smartphones will replace the smartphone-like feature phones," he said. "This is more of a temporary solution."

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