Monday, September 25, 2017

Lite apps, a new trend?

Image result for facebook liteTwitter just released Twitter Lite in the Philippines and this seems to be a new trend in the world of apps. Various companies have recently launched versions of their apps that are smaller in install size, use less data and (naturally) have less features. These apps are primarily focused on developing markets, where mobile data isn’t just slower, but also more expensive. Besides, phones generally have less storage space. However, these lite versions might also be interesting for the western market.

Let’s use Facebook as an example. On Android, the app has been criticized for eating your precious battery juice. If you also have Messenger installed, which is required as a separate app if you want to use that service, it’s even worse. Battery drain also happens in the background, when you're not using the apps. These are so called wakelocks. The size of the app itself is currently 262mb on my device. The install size of Facebook Lite is 1.3mb, as advertised by Facebook and takes up 6.19mb for me. When it comes to wakelocks, the normal Facebook app has 277 wake ups, Facebook Lite 55.

Facebook (+ Messenger) and Twitter aren’t the only apps available in lite versions. LinkedIn, Skype and Google also have limited variants. Twitter Lite is an interesting example however, because it looks and feels a lot like the progressive web app it recently released. A PWA basically is a website that mimics a traditional app, which means it’s possible to send notifications to users and it can also be used offline without showing Chrome’s funny dinosaur game. Especially Google is exploring an app-less future with initiatives like PWA’s and Instant Apps, which only downloads the specific part of an app needed for a certain action, like paying for a hotel.




While these developments are interesting for people who have just bought their first smartphone, smartphone users all over the world will eventually benefit. Less storage space wasted by apps means you have more space for photos. Less data usage means you can watch more cat gifs (this is really getting old, sorry).

There are more and more services we can’t live without anymore. And that’s the problem. Facebook knows you will still post your best (or worst?) duckface to Instagram. Snapchat is horrible on Android and they don’t care, so OS makers like Apple and Google also should protect their users against abusive apps and they generally manage to do better with every platform version release.

I’m an idealist, so I like to believe in a world where we have a perfect hybrid of features and data/storage savings. It doesn’t really matter whether that’s in the form of apps or websites or whatever comes next, as long as we can have a good experience using those services.

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