Why Lite Apps Are Making a Comeback | by Dhananjay Garg | October, 2022

A brief history of super apps and why lite apps are needed to make a comeback.

Full and light app icons for Facebook, Messenger and Instagram

We are almost near the end of 2022 and I expect mobile apps to continue to flourish and capture all our mobile phone stores in the years to come. There’s no denying that apps have become admirably interactive, packing in a lot more features that allow us to accomplish more things than ever before. Android phones and iPhones have started offering 256GB and 512GB models, and even then they’re not enough. These apps keep occupying more space in our lives and our phones. In this post, I will discuss the rise of super-apps, the difference between native and lite/instant apps, and more reasons to adopt lite apps than to save storage space. So let’s get cracking.

While I was taking Japanese language classes during the summer holidays, one of the students going to Japan excitedly started telling me about this app called LINE, which is kind of a super app. It had everything it said and is much more advanced than any mobile app of the time. Line-apps such as WeChat of China and KakaoTalk of South Korea are chat apps that have evolved into a hub for entertainment, social and day-to-day activities. Imagine YouTube, Spotify, WhatsApp, Instagram, Reddit, Clubhouse, and Uber all merged into a single bundle. It was fascinating.

But there was one downside – the size of the app. It was a whopping 100MB and the argument used in those days was that you don’t need any other app after installing this huge app. Like most people, I was sold on the idea. Storage was expensive in those days and saving on the number of mobile apps installed was a big win.

Gradually times changed and mobile storage and data became cheaper. Consumers no longer need to install these large apps. They can easily install multiple apps. One for ride-hailing and one for food delivery and another for neo-banking wallet. But there are still super apps that are present in different markets that boast of a large feature set and occupy a large segment of the market. See a snapshot of the list below.

Notable Super Apps Across Asia (Acquired from Rapyd.com)
Notable Super Apps Across Asia // Source: Rapid

why don’t they make lite apps

Screenshot of the Grab-app's transport, food, delivery and subscription icons.
4 of the Many App Features Offered by Grab

As I mentioned earlier, there are still companies that continue to build super apps primarily for Asian markets. Companies that have built their business by offering super app capabilities have a high risk of losing a significant set of customers if they decide to go down the lite app route. This is because a consumer initially installs a super-app for their core offerings like chat, wallet or ride-hailing capabilities. But since other non-core features remain in the same app, the customer becomes an easy target to try out other product features like investments, loans, courier services and more.

Interaction with secondary facilities soon becomes the main driver for boosting a company’s business performance. Migrating to multiple unbundled Lite apps is not only an extra effort, but it’s also a huge loss for the business as customers are less likely to try out secondary features now.

I am primarily an Android user and for me, these are my top 5 storage sponges –

  1. Brave Browser:3GB , No lite version available
  2. Instagram: 1.3GB – Vs – Lite: 87MB
  3. AliExpress:1.3GB , No lite version available
  4. Dropbox: 1.2GB , No lite version available
  5. Facebook: 1.25GB – Vs – Small: 70MB

Although most of these apps retain my activity data on their servers, they occupy a large portion of my mobile storage due to the cached data and feature set that these apps use as mini-app or micro-app functionality. add up over time using .

Mini-apps are basically small megabyte-sized apps that companies can ship to their primary apps to integrate additional functionality that wasn’t shipped as part of the original bundle. WeChat and LINE used them to add additional functionality without forcing the user to update their apps.

Although Lite apps are great for saving mobile storage, they are not made for everyone. For example, when consumers move from Facebook’s full-size app to the Lite app, they’ll experience a rapid decline in overall performance and user experience. Here is a quick summary of the pros and cons you can expect from Lite Apps –

professionals

  • Saving on phone storage space. The cache is also at the bottom.
  • Consumes less battery.

Shortcoming

  • User experience is slow and jittery at times.
  • You don’t get to enjoy all the motion designs and transitions.
  • Limited feature set and not always the latest feature set.

mental health

Out of the pros mentioned above, I have experienced benefits in terms of my mental health due to Lite Apps. Since the overall performance is so poor, my mind is less inclined towards opening the app again and again. For example, when using Instagram I always see a progress bar at the top which takes about 5-10 seconds to load. This quells my craving to open stories or interact with the chat functionality. If mental health is important to you, switching to Lite apps can be tested.

Design cue: Lite apps generally have the company's logo over a white base background. This is done to distinguish the lite-app from it's heavier sibling.

Shortcuts and Instant Apps

Did you know that on Android you can create home screen shortcuts from the browser app to enjoy an app-like experience without additional installation? I like these apps which can directly fetch in app listing of my mobile without apk installed on my mobile. Web pages such as Twitter, Figma, LinkedIn, ADPList and Google Travel support this feature. The overall experience is exactly the same as Lite-Apps, but without the additional installation.

In addition, some Android apps are bringing support for Instant Apps. Companies can convert their apps or games into instant apps using the Google SDK support. Instant Apps are a great way to connect with consumers without forcing them to install the entire app in the first place.

Instant apps can load only a portion of the app and launching it requires only temporary storage in the user’s mobile. If the user is happy with the teaser of the app then they proceed to install the full app.

Leave a Comment