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Uber launches 5 MB ‘Lite’ app for developing markets

Cab aggregator Uber has launched a 5 MB Lite app that was made in India, the company announced in a blog post. For context, Uber’s main Android app is around 180 MB, which is thirty times larger than the slimmed down version announced today. Uber’s head of rider experience, Peter Deng, told TechCrunch that the app was made in India for developing markets. Uber’s engineering office in Bangalore, the company’s first in Asia, was likely behind the app’s development, but this hasn’t been confirmed by the company.

The app is behind a waitlist and isn’t available to download for everyone yet. It will release in the rest of the world after its initial release in India.

Lite apps in India

Even Ola has a Lite app, which is just over half a megabyte large. That’s around a tenth of Uber Lite’s size. Then again, it may not be the actual file size of Lite apps that matter as much as how fast they can run on low-end Android devices, which form the majority of the smartphone market in India. Better yet, Ola has systems in place to book cabs without an internet connection, much less a spotty and unreliable one. That works through SMS, which is a system that Uber does not have even on its Lite app.

Google has also toiled to create apps easy on the file size — like YouTube Go, a stripped down YouTube app built for users without high-speed internet. Then there’s Android Go, which is an entire lite operating system for low-cost handsets. In February, Google partnered with Airtel to distribute phones with that light OS installed. There was also Android One, Google’s earlier attempt at an OS for low-cost Android handsets, which didn’t take off very well. Google has also released FilesGo, a file manager that it made to free up space in markets like India, where local memory storage running out is a common problem.

Facebook’s main app, as well as its Messenger app, have lite versions too.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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