Facebook Announces Messenger Lite For Older Devices and Emerging Markets
Facebook just announced Facebook Messenger Lite, a new low-resource version of Facebook Messenger (much to the disdain of the developers of Lite Messenger for Facebook), joining Facebook Lite in their portfolio.
Facebook Messenger Lite is a cut down version of Facebook Messenger, weighing in at under 10 MB. It is designed to be fast to download (even on slower data connections) and fast to open, and includes many of the basic Facebook Messenger features like “messaging, sending and receiving photos and links, and receiving stickers.” However no mention was made in the announcement of calling, location sharing, read receipts, or various other features, some of which have likely been cut in order to get down to the smaller APK size that they are targeting. Facebook also made extensive mention of how Facebook Messenger Lite was designed with a focus on slow and unreliable network connections, and how it will help expand Facebook Messenger into markets that it previously couldn’t reach.
David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of Messaging Products, stated that Messenger Lite was created “for people, who still own older Android devices (think 2009-2011) that have less available ‘disk’ space, memory, and lower performing CPUs, and that often run on lower bandwidth connections”, rather than for people buying current entry-level phones. Back when dual core processors were just starting to hit the market, batteries were commonly around 1400 mAh, Samsung hitting the 1 GHz mark was considered impressive, and many phones were shipping with storage amounts measured in Megabytes. Phones like the Motorola Droid, the HTC Desire, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. Technology has changed substantially since then, and it can be easy to forget how different those devices were from current flagship phones like the Moto Z Force, the HTC 10, or the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 if you haven’t seen them in a while, but there are still people out there that use older devices, and Facebook wants to see those people using their communication platform.
Facebook is aware of the reputation that Facebook Messenger has as being a bit of a resource hog, and were very careful in their launch announcement to avoid undercutting their full Facebook Messenger offering. While having people on Messenger Lite is nice for Facebook, they would prefer that people use the full Messenger offering to avoid splintering which parts of the userbase can use which features with each other. They know that there is a risk of people switching from Facebook Messenger to Facebook Messenger Lite, especially as many people have been asking for improvements in Facebook Messenger’s resource usage for quite a while now (which was redoubled by Facebook’s removal of messaging functionality from the mobile website earlier this year), and are stressing that Facebook Messenger Lite is targeted for early smartphones, the likes of which are becoming increasingly rare in the Western world. As a result, Facebook may decide to permanently keep country restrictions on Messenger Lite similarly to what they are currently doing with Facebook Lite.
Facebook Messenger Lite will be initially launching in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela, with promises of more countries being added shortly. It will be interesting to see what countries Facebook Messenger Lite comes to, and what steps Facebook takes to promote it there. Messenger Lite looks like it could be a solid product, but Facebook will need to take some steps to advertise it if they want people to actually use it (although their methods with Facebook Lite seem to have been fairly successful, with it reaching a couple hundred million installs already).
It also will likely only launch on Android, as there are limited numbers of smartphones on other OSes in developing markets (although many companies like Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla have been attempting to make inroads into the market), and Facebook extensively mentioned Android in their announcement.
What are your thoughts on Facebook’s strategy of Lite apps? Do you think it is a wasted effort with early smartphones being on their way out? Or is it a smart strategy to target markets that Facebook Messenger cannot reach, especially for something social where every user matters? Let us know in the comments below!