Uber wants its app to be on every device in the world — even if those devices are connected to slow or spotty internet connections.
The company announced Tuesday that it’s launching a new version of its ride-hailing app built specifically for emerging economies called “Uber Lite.” The new app is essentially a smaller, 5MB version of its existing Android app.
It’s no secret that the company has been looking to expand to emerging economies, and this new app will be a large part of that strategy. Uber Lite is starting as a pilot in India and will arrive in more countries later this year.
Uber Lite is designed to run on basically any Android device and is only 5MB, which is significantly smaller than the full version of the app (which is about 181.4MB). In order to reduce the size of the app, the company stripped away many of the bells and whistles found in the original app such as the live map view and animated cars on streets. The company has instead opted to show users a progress bar to keep track of pickups and drop offs.
Like the original Uber app, the Lite variant will also detect your location, and if the GPS signal is not strong enough, it will suggest popular pickup points.
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will help Uber Lite to suggest destinations based on where you go most often. As with most machine learning features, this too will get better over time.
The timing of this rollout is particularly interesting because it comes shortly after Android Go phones have been hitting the market. This is Google’s entry-level smartphone OS that brings the many core features of Android, including apps, in a form that doesn’t require as much processing power.
It remains to be seen if Uber Lite will be a helpful and accessible way to use the ride-sharing platform. Either way, I hope they bring some of these less power-intensive features to the core app.