Today biNu, a startup that gives smartphone-like functionality to feature phones, announced the launch of its new cloud storage service, MyMedia, and a new ‘Save and Share’ feature that will allow biNu members to share files over SMS, email, messenger, or within its social network. BetaKit last covered the startup when it raised $4.3 million and launched biNu credits as part of its monetization strategy. Since then, the company has grown to five million monthly active users spread out across Africa, Asia, and South America.
“We’ve been progressively rolling out social networking features on the platform to complement the content on the phone. Messaging, status updates, sharing…all the things you’d expect from a Facebook for mobile, including photo sharing,” said CEO and co-founder Gour Lentell in an interview with BetaKit. “While we’ve been rolling that out, we’re growing at the same time which has led to the five million active users.”
Other new feature releases include Flashchat, which members can use to send photos that disappear after 10 seconds, Voicechat to enable free voice-to-text messaging, and a dedicated URL shortener. With the release of the new features, biNu effectively gives any web-enabled phone, be it a feature phone or low-end Android device, the ability to use features usually reserved for apps Dropbox, Snapchat and other popular services without upgrading to the latest smartphones.
In terms of the biNu credits that unlock premium content and services like messaging to non-biNu members, Lentell said the company is still looking to drive home the concept to its target market, and is offering free credits for in-app actions and activities. It has also started partnering with local cellular networks and other mobile payment providers to enable mobile shopping and transactions for partners.
Another key development in biNu’s strategy is that the developing market is being increasingly flooded with lower-end Android devices, with biNu seeing Android as a key part of its long-term growth. It will continue to focus on making the biNu experience on those Android devices as rich as possible, hoping to grow with its market as the hardware slowly but surely gets updated and replaced.
“We’re doing a number of things to further improve the Android experience we provide and see Android as being strategically important to us over the next couple of years,” Lentell added.
With the launch of the new features, biNu wants to be both a social network and content provider for the 62 percent of the global population that has yet to access fully functional smartphones, enabling its users to access both existing services like Facebook and Twitter, and its own versions of other popular ones. It’s also in the works of forming a partnership with content creators and developers that want to make their content available on biNu so it doesn’t have to duplicate efforts, giving it a large breadth of services and features to keep its target market busy on whatever phone they use. Whether it keeps growing among feature phone users or gets replaced over time as smartphone use grows is something to keep an out for over the next year.