Uber is setting its sights on the developing world, where most cell phones and data networks lack the capacity to easily handle its app. To solve that problem, Uber has created Uber Lite.
The app, which rolled out in India on Tuesday, is a pared down version of its Android app that eats just 5 megabytes of space on a smartphone. The regular app, in contrast, weighs in at a hefty 181 megabytes.
To save on data and storage, Uber Lite immediately suggests nearby businesses or landmarks based on the user’s location rather than a map or a text entry box. The app also tries to guess the user’s destination based on popular spots in the city.
Uber Lite doesn’t load a data-heavy map unless users tap for it. Passengers who use it pay drivers in cash only (many Indians lack credit cards), but the company plans to integrate it with India’s Paytm. Notifications and more languages are coming, Uber says.
“You have to do less typing and can do more tapping,” Peter Deng, the head of the rider experience team at Uber told tech news site TechCrunch.
Safety was another key concern in creating Uber Lite, Deng said.
Plans for Uber include offering offline hailing, the ability to order a ride without an Internet or network connection, though Uber won’t reveal how yet. Uber already offers web bookings in India and is testing how to make it easier for less phony savvy users to hail rides.
Uber Lite will help the company grow in markets in which it previously pulled out. In 2016, Chinese ride sharing company Didi acquired Uber’s China unit. In 2018, Uber exited the Southeast Asian market in return for a stake in Grab. There is also a planned agreement with Russia’s Yandex, according to TechCrunch.
Ola, a competitor to Uber in India, also offers a ‘Lite” app option that is only 1 megabyte. Ola has a 45% market share compared to Uber’s 35% in India. According to TechCrunch, there may be a merger between the two in the works. India is an important market for Uber, as it makes up 10% of the company’s rides.
Uber Lite, which is currently unavailable for iOS phones, is expected to launch in more countries soon. It is currently only available in India and via waitlist.