Uber India announced the Uber Lite app for Indian riders, especially for those who are on older Android devices and are running older versions of Android (4.1 and up). The Uber Lite app which will be operating in beta in Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad, before rolling out to other cities will occupy only 5 MB on your device’s storage.
Uber Lite is an India first app and while Uber didn’t give any timelines, it also didn’t rule out the possibility of launching the app in other markets as well.
“The Uber Lite app has been built and designed from the ground up in India. It’s optimised to work with less storage and under any network conditions. So this is just a testament of our operating model right now. We’re investing heavily in India not just from a market perspective, but also investing in a very strong product and engineering team here who can have that empowerment,” said Manik Gupta, VP and head of product at Uber.
Uber’s Indian rival Ola already has an Ola Lite app which was launched last December, for addressing precisely the same pain points. Add in the fact that Ola is headquartered in India which could give it an advantage in terms of insights and going to market quicker. Gupta feels that since Uber is a global company it has an advantage of seeing things at scale in different markets which helps it see varied customer behaviour and apply those learnings here.
Considering Uber Lite is just 5 MB in size, there are obviously some features that are present on the parent app that you will not be able to get on the Lite app. Payments for instance can only be made via cash and not by digital wallets or credit cards.
While we didn’t get any forthcoming answers about what specific feature sets were cut down or the challenges associated with the Lite app, Gupta said that Uber Lite isn’t really a stripped down version of the Uber app, but a separate app built independently which takes care of the basic app functionality.
“When you redesign, you can basically go to first principles and think about what really matters for users under those constraints. Right from networking, to things like not having to type so much and so on. I would say it's a different app, as opposed to a slimmed down one. We have retained all the basic functionality that you would expect. For instance, you can still request a ride, you can enter destination, you can get the fare up front, maps visibility is on demand, you can even book an Uber Go or Premium. Additionally, you also have the safety features there,” said Gupta.
The idea to redesign the Uber Lite app also was the reason behind coming up with a separate app rather than going with a progressive web app. According to Gupta a lot of decisions were taken keeping in mind the needs of the consumers. Any feature that wasn’t considered to be absolutely critical, such as say app notifications or payment methods such as wallets, was not added to the Uber Lite app.
The Uber Lite app, although launched in India first, will be used as a training ground to learn user behaviour and Uber has plans in the future to launch this app in other global markets as well.
It does not seem like the Uber Lite app is coming to iOS anytime soon. According to Uber India, the number of Android users speaks for itself, and this platform is ripe for understanding user behaviour of the app under constraints of the OS, network connectivity, limited storage and so on.
The Uber Lite app is currently only available on beta for Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad and you will have to fill out a form to get in line to use the app. We will test the app when we get our hands on it and let you know the experience.