For people with limited storage and memory on their smartphones, apps can be a difficult thing to navigate. Many of the most popular apps in the U.S. — Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat — are large downloads and extremely demanding to run. A phone that has 16GB of storage and 1GB or 2GB of RAM will quickly run out of space for new apps (or photos, music, etc.), and running those heavy apps will often result in crashes, overheating, and slowdowns.
What’s more, those kinds of apps eat a ton of data, which is not ideal if you’re on a budget or use your phone as your primary access point to the internet (as is the case for 20% of Americans, according to this Pew report). Thankfully, there is an alternative. The majority of the most-used apps on the market offer “lite” versions that reduce the drain on your phone and monthly data allotment. If a lite variant isn’t available, platforms often have Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which provide basic functionality through a mobile browser. PWAs don’t require a download and are much less processor-intensive. Often, companies cover their bases by making their web app into a lite app, offering identical service on both.
We’ve rounded up a comprehensive list of the best lite apps and PWAs available for major apps on the market today.
Google Maps Go
Maps Go is the light version of Google’s navigation app. Google Maps is the go-to app for navigating across a variety of travel methods, from walking to driving to using public transit, so using a lightweight version can have a big impact on performance and data usage. Unfortunately, this app is only available for Android devices, but it is possible to reach a PWA version on iOS by following the link below in the Chrome browser.
Facebook is the largest social media platform for mobile users in the U.S. It’s also a hefty and demanding app that requests a lot of data permissions from you (for example, device location) — so it makes sense to get rid of it in favor of a lightweight version. Thankfully, there’s Facebook Lite for Android and iOS. Facebook Lite delivers the same social experience you expect, but in a much smaller package and with less reliance on using a bunch of mobile data.
After beta testing a 15MB lite version, Spotify finally released the final version of its Spotify Lite for Android, and it weighs in at just 10MB. That tiny size makes Spotify Lite one of the least resource-intensive ways of streaming music from your phone. However, the Lite app is missing some aspects you might see as key for data saving — it has data monitoring solutions, but it lacks the ability to download songs to play offline. So while it’s a great app for saving storage space, it’s oddly not the best app for saving data. Stick with the main app if space is no issue, but if storage is at a premium, this is the best choice for music streaming.
Facebook Messenger Lite
Facebook’s chat tool, Messenger, is massive in its own right with more than 1.3 billion monthly active users. Facebook Messenger Lite strips down the messaging app to the essentials, bringing the app size down to less than 10MB. Those essentials still include some luxuries though, and Messenger’s ever-popular video calling is among them. Unfortunately, despite Messenger Lite being available on Android for years now, the lite app still hasn’t arrived on iOS. Unless you live in Turkey, that is.
YouTube Go, the miniature version of Google’s massive social video platform, launched in 2016 and is available in more than 130 countries, though not in any Western markets. The simplified platform offers minimal but effective features. When selecting a video, YouTube Go asks if you would like to download a low-quality version instead, allowing for a bit more control over data usage. Plus, you can send videos to your friends via Bluetooth. If you’re in one of the markets where it does exist and you own an Android phone, you can grab it below. Otherwise, you’re out of luck for now.
Google Go is a lighter and faster version of the Chrome browser that promises data savings of up to 40%. Weighing in at only 7MB, it also barely takes up any space on your device, but still comes with all the features you love. There is (obviously) access to Google Search, but it also comes with voice controls, Google Lens, and the latest trending topics. If you’re using an entry-level or older phone, then this is a must-install. Unfortunately though, there is no iOS version.
Can’t get your hands on Google Go? Try the Opera browser’s lite offshoot, Opera Mini. This lightweight browser’s main focus is conserving data for the budget-conscious, plus it offers a built-in adblocker. Other features include a download button for videos — not YouTube videos, unfortunately, but a variety of others — and data tracking in the settings menu. While it used to be available on iOS, it no longer is, having been replaced by Opera Touch. Unfortunately, that browser doesn’t include the data-saving options of Opera Mini, and there aren’t many data-saving apps to replace it.
Gmail Go launched in February 2018 in emerging markets including India and Indonesia. It takes up only 25MB of storage space, much less than the standard Gmail’s app 47MB. As for features, it offers most of the standard capabilities you’d expect from Gmail, including multiple account support, attachments, and push notifications, while reducing mobile data use. While it syncs fewer days of emails, and things like scrolling are a little choppier in Gmail Go than the full version, it’s a worthwhile trade-off for many people. It’s only available on Android for now.
Microsoft built the minimal Skype Lite platform specifically for the Indian market, but it’s available in North America as well. The early access (read: potentially unstable) Android app offers all the essential Skype features — you can message, make audio and video calls, and use it as a VoIP service. Plus, Skype Lite offers an additional intelligent text filter to help reduce SMS clutter, and a data saver mode for making calls over a cellular network. Like many other lite apps on this list, Skype Lite hasn’t made it to iOS yet, and it’s unclear whether it will.
Twitter Lite (PWA)
You might end up using Twitter Lite without recognizing it — the PWA is Twitter’s standard mobile web platform, available at mobile.twitter.com. You can also access it by downloading the Twitter Lite app on Android in over 45 markets with heavy mobile usage (including Ghana, Turkey, Ukraine, and many more). The app is designed to load quickly on 2G and 3G networks, offers a data saver mode to download only images and videos you want to see, and takes up less than 3MB of space.
You used to have to rely on a Google Photos PWA for a Google-powered lite gallery, but that’s not the case anymore. Gallery Go is a lighter version of the main Google Photos app, specifically designed for Android Go devices, and it also manages to be just as useful. It uses less data than Google Photos, with full offline access, but it’s the organization that’s truly impressive. Gallery Go organizes your photo collection every night (saving daytime resources), collating your snaps into a number of categories — so you can quickly and easily find the picture you want. It even has a dark theme and a built-in editor.
Files by Google
Previously known as Files Go, Files by Google is a storage manager, and it’s particularly useful for those with minimal smartphone storage. It provides recommendations for files to erase, makes it easy to delete collections of data in a single tap, and provides other tools for managing and viewing storage space. It also offers offline file sharing via Bluetooth that’s similar to Apple’s AirDrop functionality. It’s available globally on Android.
- The best productivity apps for Android and iOS
- The best Android apps (August 2020)
- The best marketing apps for small businesses in 2020
- The best Android Auto apps for 2020
- The best text messaging apps for Android and iOS