Skip to main content

Uber eyes millions of new riders with the launch of Uber Lite

Lots of other popular online services have done it, and now Uber has joined the club.

We’re talking about lightweight apps for those with unreliable connectivity, limited data plans, or mobile devices with a small amount of storage. Such apps are usually targeted at emerging markets where internet infrastructure is continuing to be developed.

Uber Lite was “built in India” but “designed for the world,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new app. But India’s population of 1.3 billion people is the initial target for Uber’s new app.

Currently Android-only Uber Lite uses just 5MB of storage — that compares to more than 280MB for the full iOS version (storage for its regular Android app “varies with device”).

Uber’s Shirish Andhare, who takes care of the company’s products for emerging markets, says the new app features a “300-millisecond response time (literally the blink of the eye),” promising that “the booking process is fast even in low connectivity.”

The team has managed to retain many of the core features of the regular Uber app, including in-app support and the ability to share a trip with friends and family.

A new way of doing things

But as you’d expect, there are some differences.

With Uber Lite, you’ll only be offered a map when you ask for one, a process that requires just a single tap. When you choose not to use maps, the app will provide a progress bar showing how close your driver is getting to your pick-up point.

A “guided pickups” feature determines your current location, though if GPS or network issues make this difficult, the app will automatically surface popular pick-up points nearby, one of which you can select with a tap.

In fact, Uber Lite works to prioritize tap over type in an effort to speed up the ride-request experience. It does this using its A.I. smarts to work out how you use the app, such as which routes you take most often. It will then offer these as one-tap selections when you open the app, saving you from having to type anything in.

Andhare says the launch of Uber Lite is “just the start” as it plans to add further updates “like the ability for riders to choose their preferred language for the app during sign up, and request a ride even when they are offline.”

Following India, Uber Lite will launch in additional countries later this year. India is now Uber’s most important Asian market after the company exited China and south-east Asia in the last couple of years. The ridesharing service launched there five years ago and has around 450,000 drivers in more than 30 cities across the country.

Other popular online services have launched lite versions in recent years, among them Facebook, Messenger, Google, Twitter, Skype, and LinkedIn.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
The best lite apps for Android and iOS
Files Go

If you constantly struggle with limited storage and memory on your smartphone, jockeying between uninstalling apps, removing excess data, clearing out your photos, and other tricks to save space, can be time-consuming and confusing. It doesn't help that many of the most popular apps in the U.S. -- Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat -- are large downloads and resource-demanding. An older phone with 16GB of storage and 1GB or 2GB of RAM will quickly run out of space for new apps or photos or music, and running such apps will cause overheating, slowdowns, and crashes.

What's more, those apps also consume a ton of data, which is not ideal if you're on a budget or use your phone as your primary access to the internet -- which holds true for 20% of Americans, according to a 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.

Read more
Facebook vs. Facebook Lite: Which is best for you?
galaxy s6

Love it or hate it, Facebook has become an integral part of many people's online lives. One way you might be able to improve your social media experience is to look at Facebook’s Lite app (available for Android and iOS). Both the primary Facebook and Facebook Lite apps offer all the main features of Facebook, but the later version is designed to use less network data and will work well on low-end devices. We look at both applications to see which is best for you in this Facebook versus Facebook Lite battle.


Read more
Uber sells its flying-taxi business to another flying-taxi business
flying taxi

Uber has abandoned its effort to build a so-called “flying car,” taking it out of the race to launch an air-taxi service.

Joby Aviation, which is developing its own all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft (eVTOL), has agreed to acquire Uber’s flying-car unit — Uber Elevate — for an undisclosed sum, Joby announced on Tuesday, December 8.

Read more