Just when you think Uber is down and out for the count (or lying low at least for the meantime), you get this hopefully great news that they are launching a new lighter version of the app. Unsurprisingly called Uber Lite, the app is meant for countries outside of the US where Internet connection is not always reliable and where smartphones are sometimes limited in memory and storage. The app was developed in India, one of the emerging nations when it comes to technology but where the aforementioned conditions are still pretty much prevalent.
What makes Uber Lite different from the original app is that it is only 5MB to download so if space and data is an issue for you, this version should make things easier. It also claims to have a 300-milisecond response time even when you have low connectivity. While it maintains the core functionality of the main Uber app, they had to change some things with both the user interface and the feature set as well so that even with spotty connectivity and the most basic Android smartphones, people will still be able to book a ride when they need it. Of course all of this is purely theoretical at this point but if they live up to that, people would want to get the Lite version if speed and lightness is what they need in their ride-sharing app.
One example for how they made it easier is that the interface lets you do more tapping rather than typing. It should be able to easily detect your current location so you don’t have to type it in. If there are connectivity issues, then it will show you the popular pick up points from where you are. Same with picking your destination, it will show you options from your frequently used or the top places in the city that it thinks you might be headed to. Machine learning plays an important role here of course since the more you use the app, the more it learns about where your usual destinations are. And the best (or worst) part is that maps are optional here so as to keep the app light. You can just tap if you want them to appear but otherwise, you can just hide it. They will be adding a progress bar soon so you can track where your driver is at even without the map.
Even though this lite version was built and intended for the Indian market where connectivity is still an issue and economics lead people to buy cheaper smartphones, Uber intends to release it to other territories. But for now, the pilot testing is just in India. It’s so ironic though that the Lite app comes right after they decided to close their operations in Southeast Asia. The countries in the region are also similar to India in that the Internet is mostly slow and devices are limited specs wise and so this would have been perfect for countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc.
However, Uber has made some big mistakes in some of their operations outside the US. They have failed to adapt to the markets like the aforementioned Southeast Asia and earlier in China and Russia. They thought what was successful in North America and Europe can also be applied in other regions. But their smaller rivals, like Grab who they sold their SEA operations to, were quicker to the draw and were more attuned to what users wanted and needed. Let’s see if this Uber Lite gambit will be for the better in places where they still exist.