Each week we usually point to the growth of Facebook’s two major smartphone apps to show the platform’s mobile growth: Facebook for iPhone has about 32 million monthly active users, while Facebook for BlackBerry has 16 million. But what about all the other phones out there? GetJar, an independent app distributor that’s partnered with Facebook, says its own app has been downloaded 50 million times in just six months.
The news is useful for helping gauge Facebook’s success on a mobile platform, because the app itself is not much more than a bookmark — although its users may not know that. When mobile users visit m.facebook.com, they’re offered an app download link that depends on their device.
Facebook then directs the non-smartphone users over to GetJar, where they download what is essentially a Facebook icon carrying a direct link to the mobile version of the site, which may be optimized for the device. Users who aren’t tech-savvy may think the app does something special, but its real benefit is to declare an intention, and create an ever-present reminder, to regularly visit Facebook on a phone.
This simple app isn’t just more downloaded than the smartphone versions, it has also grown at a faster pace. GetJar’s chief marketing officer, Patrick Mork, says the app spiked up to 1.5 million downloads in its first week. The download volume slowed only slightly after that initial rush, with over a million downloads coming in each week over the past half-year. “The app is enormously popular in Southeast Asia,” Mork told us. “And it’s also popular in the United States for Samsung, LG and other high-end feature devices.”
Although GetJar isn’t sharing any more specific stats, we can guess at how many of GetJar’s downloaders continue to use the Facebook app on a daily basis by looking at Facebook’s own stats for its mobile site, which show that almost eight million people visit on a daily basis. That’s fewer than the smartphone apps, but still a quite respectable number considering that many of the devices being used aren’t as slick and addictive as an iPhone or BlackBerry.
And GetJar’s 50 million downloads do offer more outside evidence to corroborate Facebook’s announcement that 100 million people, about a fourth of its users, are visiting through mobile devices. By partnering with GetJar, which has long expertise in delivering apps to networks across the world, Facebook gets to skip distribution hassle and focus on making a full-featured site for mobile users and other products.
Of course, the app and mobile site as they are today are just part of a broader strategy for Facebook, which we wrote about on Friday. That includes a new “Zero” text-only version of the site that carriers can give to users for free, and a long-term focus on content beyond just social networking.