Uber Lite: The 5 MB App That Posses A Lot Of Questions

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App-based ride-hailing giant Uber unveiled its new application Uber Lite which is just 5 MB in size and claims to have a response time of 300 milliseconds. The application is designed while focusing on the developing economies like India, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. This application might attract users with old, data crunched and slow phones. Uber says that over 70% of its traffic from Android devices is from older devices.

Uber claims that the application is not a stripped down version of its elder brother, which consumes memory worth 45.46 MB in India, instead, the application is built from scratch, keeping in mind the usage of the average user.

The application features a completely different interface adorned with just the basic necessities. The application does not show a map but can do so if the user wants to, in order to save data. The app also strives to provide more ‘tap to choose options‘ rather than typing in order to please those with tiny or slow displays. Initially, the application is available in just of three of the Indian Markets – Jaipur, Delhi and Hyderabad and the current supported form of payment is just via Cash.

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Uber’s Need for the Application

As reports suggest, Uber might release its Initial Public Offering (IPO) sometime in 2019. Analysts suggest that the company valuation may be around $62 million. Alarmingly, the losses suffered by the ride-hailing venture in the first quarter of 2018 was to the tune of $312 million, keeping aside the taxes, interests and any other expenses. Reportedly, the company has lost over $10 billion since it started its service in 2018.

The company has already started plugging the leaking faucets by implementing various methods in countries in red. Uber had exited the Chinese market after facing existential threats by Didi Chuxing – China’s Homegrown ride-hailing giant. Uber merged with Yandex in Russia, the nation’s competitor to Uber. Infact, of the 8 Asian Countries, Uber had its feet in, only one of them survives as of today – India. India currently accounts for nearly 10% of Uber’s business today, a figure too good to be thrown away.

Questionable Path: India’s Internet Infrastructure

Facebook lite, Google Go, Twitter Lite, Messenger lite, Youtube Go, Skype lite, Ola lite, LinkedIn lite and the list continues. The Indian app market is filled with various applications and a lighter version of the same. The companies attribute their move to old hardware, slower connections and incomprehensibility of the features of the app by a large segment of users comprising the elderly and the rural population in India.

As of May 2018, India stands at 114th position in terms of mobile data download speeds in a list of 125 countries according to the survey conducted by Ookla’s Speed test Global Index. The average download speed in India is 8.75 Mbps against the global average of 23.57 Mbps.

In India, the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, the penetration of smartphone has reached just 33%. Out of 1.19 billion mobile subscribers only 330 million user smartphones. Since the majority of the population uses phones from the range of mobile phones belonging to the Rs 8000 to Rs 20,000 segment, it is not surprising when the companies claim that a good share of their active users are on older hardware or software, as companies selling phones in this segment hardly offer any subsequent updates to their devices.

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All these claims signal towards the crumbling Internet Infrastructure of India, hidden deceptively amidst the chaos of low data prices and dirty competition among the Internet providers of India.

The Road Ahead

India is expected to witness the highest growth in the number of smartphone users at 16% Yoy growth in 2018. The number of smartphone users is expected to hit 500 million mark by the end of 2022. Also, the number of active 4G users in India is projected to cross the 400 million mark by 2021. 5G services are expected to hit the floor within a year-end while it is said that the services could be launched in India by 2020.

This figure portrays big window of opportunity for all the app developers, smartphone OEMs and regional internet providers. However, these lucrative projections have got years before we reach even close to that. Until then more than 700 million mobile phone subsribers and those who are still hooked with 2G/3G network could very well be brought under the radar of Uber by the lighter version of its app.

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