Lite apps

Lite apps is an outstanding phenomena of Google Play Market. Apparently, this phenomena is a result of Android devices variety. Android is a great example how developers seek for a sweet spot in the triangle between the speed of development, rich user experience and the number of devices supported. Despite great Android flexibility on a variety of devices Android versioning contributes a lot to app complexity. This is where Lite apps stepped out to cover the quality gap on low-end and outdated devices.

TikTok apps at Google Play Market

Actually, distribution of Android versions on the market is changing rapidly, especially during this year. According to statscounter, as of September 2022 Android version 10 and higher takes on over 74.5% devices, while Android 10 being released 3 years ago. However, there is still almost 9% of devices below Android 7, which accounts to almost 270 mln devices worldwide.

The ‘Lite’ postfix stands for a lighter app version that is produced to work specifically on a resource-limited Android device, where its user wants to save space or where the main app does not work anymore. These apps expected to generate less internet traffic so they could fit better to areas with weak and expensive internet connection. Usually, these apps make use of WebView component that serves as browser to the mobile version of the app website.

Some Lite apps can be tracked back to 2010, but major companies jumped in later with Facebook Lite in 2015 and Twitter Lite in 2017 and more players in 2019-2021 (probably to address those Android 4-6 devices in need). It has to be mentioned, app producers used to publish the main app almost worldwide, but the Lite version would go to a limited number of countries, mostly in developing world. Usually, companies advocate creation of Lite apps as for “unreliable and slow internet”, however each app maintains a slightly different list of countries, we can only guess real business decisions leading to a specific market.

Spotify Lite app distribution countries in 2022 (77 countries)

Nowadays, companies tend to extend their Lite apps on a few developed countries as well. Some of them even become worldwide. For example, Facebook Lite is available now almost everywhere. This seems to me even more ecologically friendly since it saves traffic but also helps to keep older devices in service for longer because many people just need access to standard features.

Below is the table of major Lite apps at the Google Play Market. In this table the download size of apps is presented. All Lite apps here are smaller than 20 MB. However, the installed app size will be slightly higher. For example, Facebook Lite goes from 1.99 MB download size to 3.35 MB installed app size. At the same time the original Facebook app is 47.24 MB, its installed size goes to 56.10 MB. On top of that including User data and Cache, some apps easily occupy beyond 1 GB.

We could find 5 apps that weigh less than 3 MB. Those are Facebook Lite, Instagram Lite, Twitter Lite, Amazon Kindle Lite and Tinder Lite. Less than 3 MB is a very good for a small app though years ago it was expected to be around 1 MB :)

However, our unstoppable leader here is Twitter Lite since its package weighs just 292 KB. In fact, that is a Progressive Web App that was one more time published as Twitter Lite app. And guess what? You can install Twitter 3 times on Android - the standard Twitter app, Twitter Lite and finally Twitter PWA 😆

Twitter apps on my phone

On the other hand, LinkedIn has deactivated their Lite app because they noticed significant growth of the main app in developing markets. Secondly, their Progressive Web App (PWA) already provides excellent performance.

PWA is a website in principle, but also it’s a well polished technology to provide the best user experience through mobile browser. PWA technology has done a great favor to Starbucks in terms of user reachability. Starbucks PWA was dramatically smaller compared to the iOS app, but more importantly it helped to double the number of online orders.

Taking into account modern devices, it is usually unclear how app size makes the difference in terms of business goals. However, stories above demonstrate significant effort of major companies contributing to fight for app size and speed so they could win as many users as possible.