Facebook looks set to expand its mobile services after agreeing to purchase mobile application developer Snaptu for a reported $US70 million.
Snaptu, a British start-up founded in 2007, recently confirmed it has been purchased by Facebook for an unspecified amount, although various international reports claim the deal was made for between $US60-70 million.
The company is based in Britain but also has offices in Silicon Valley and the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Last year, it raised $US6 million in venture capital funding.
Snaptu offers a mobile solution that attempts to give owners of regular handsets a “smartphone-like” experience when using apps for social networks.
When a user downloads the Snaptu platform onto their handset, they have access to a range of services including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
The acquisition not only highlights how importantly Facebook values its mobile solutions, but also how handsets – apart from smartphones – continue to control a significant portion of the telecommunications market.
Snaptu said in a statement it was the company’s existing relationship with Facebook that lead to the acquisition.
“Earlier this year, we announced the launch of a new Facebook mobile application to give people a great mobile experience on a broad range of feature phones,” it said.
“We soon decided that working as part of the Facebook team offered the best opportunity to keep accelerating the pace of our product development, and joining Facebook means we can make an even bigger impact on the world.”
Facebook said in a statement the company is “run by a highly innovative collection of engineers and entrepreneurs, who we already work closely with”.
According to Facebook, mobile is its top priority in 2011, and the Snaptu expansion will aid its expansion in developing countries where smartphones are less affordable.
Facebook said that by being part of the company, Snaptu’s team and technology would be able to deliver a better mobile experience on feature phones more quickly.
It delivered the Facebook for Feature Phones mobile application in January, designed to work on more than 2,500 handsets.
The acquisition is set to close in a few weeks, making it Facebook’s fourth acquisition of a start-up for the year.
It has also bought group messaging service Beluga, mobile advertising group Rel8tion, and recruiting network Pursuit.
It also announced collaborations in February with handset makers HTC and INQ on phones with special Facebook features; HTC’s ChaCha and Salsa phones feature a dedicated Facebook button to access the service.
In January, Facebook announced that it had raised $1.5 billion in funding and will continue investing in its mobile services expansion.