Snaptu Becomes Facebook’s Third Mobile Acquisition This Year

By Kim-Mai Cutler Comment

Three makes a trend. With Facebook’s announced acquisition of Snaptu today, the Israeli startup becomes the third mobile-related purchase for the company this year after advertising startup Rel8tion and group messaging app Beluga.

Snaptu, which helps developers create smartphone-like experiences on basic feature phones, partnered with Facebook earlier this year to bring the app to 2,500 different kinds of mobile devices. Making Facebook accessible to the most basic of devices in markets outside the developed world is essential if the company wants to grow beyond its existing 600 million users.

It looks like that arrangement went well enough that Facebook decided to buy the whole team. On AppData, the number of Snaptu’s monthly active users have steadily risen over the past several months to 4.4 million. In fact, it’s the fastest growing Facebook mobile client behind Android and iPhone.

Daily actives come in at just under a third of that number at around 1.27 million. The stickiness, or ratio of daily active users to monthly use, is about half of what is typical for Facebook’s smartphone apps for the iPhone and Android. But that’s understandable considering that these are feature phones.

Facebook’s Top Mobile Clients

A few questions remain: Is Facebook going to use Snaptu solely for its applications or will it make these services available to third-party developers? Aside from Facebook, Snaptu makes feature phone clients for a number of other major social networking companies including LinkedIn, Picasa and Twitter. Snaptu said in October that Facebook was its largest client; it’s probably safe to say that this is still the case.

So what happens to these other accounts? For now, Snaptu says that it will continue to operate as normal. But it didn’t offer any further details on how this deal affects the rest of its clients over the long-run. If Facebook were to help third-party developers port their applications to feature phones, it could be another way for the company to attract mobile developers to its platform. At the moment, the penetration of Facebook’s mobile platform lags behind the success of its standalone app. About half of iOS’ top apps offer Facebook as a log-in, sharing or friend finding option. Of the ones that do, the integration is so weak that they typically have a few hundred thousand monthly active users choose to log-in with Facebook, even if the app has tens of millions of users.

Snaptu was backed with more than $6 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and Carmel Ventures. Its headquarters are in London and it has offices in Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley.