The next wave of the internet revolution will occur when a majority of the people in developing countries have access to stable internet connections and low cost smartphones. Google and Fidelity recently invested 1$ Billion in SpaceX, to assist the latter in its plans to place satellites in orbit that would beam Internet to Earth. Facebook also launched its internet.org initiative last year. While these initiatives will have far reaching consequences, they will also need many years to become fully operational. Facebook recently released a new version of its mobile app targeted at developing countries. While this is a comparatively small initiative, it has the potential to make a big impact.
Facebook Lite, as the name suggests is a lightweight version of Facebook’s Android app. The app occupies 435KB of space and supports most of the basic functions.[Update: An earlier version took up 252Kb of space]. It allows users to share updates and photos, message friends, have group conversations and also get notifications. The app has been designed to work well on low-end smartphones and on 2G networks or areas with bad internet connectivity. The app also claims to be more efficient with data.
The app, based on the Snaptu version of Facebook that runs on feature phones, adds functionalities like push notifications and camera integration. Facebook Lite is currently available officially in Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.[Update: Today Facebook announced that the app is available in India and Philippines.]
Facebook vs Facebook Lite
I tried to download the app from the Google Play store, but it displayed 'This app is incompatible with your device.' I was able to find a workaround and download the APK to try it out.The initial impressions are promising. While the 'Lite' version cannot be compared with the fully functional Facebook app in terms of UI and UX, it still gets the job done.
Though the app is targeted at low-end Android users, mid and high end Android users may also find use cases for the app. For example, for some users who are not very active on social media and use their smartphones for other purposes, Facebook Lite would a good alternative as it occupies 435KB of space compared to 30MB that the fully functional app occupies.
Global Launch ?
The app has only about 10,000+ downloads as of now on the Google Play Store. This could be because Facebook has not yet given an official announcement about the app. This seems to indicate that Facebook is beta testing the app in these countries, before a wider release. Stay tuned, we will update if there are any official announcements or developments.
[Update: Facebook Lite currently has over 5,000,000+ downloads and is available officially in Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, India and Philippines]
Download : Google Play Store
Related read: How technology and internet will shape up in 2015