New Facebook Version For Emerging Markets Tested In Africa

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Facebook quietly launched a new version Jan. 20 in test markets in Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, and Zimbabwe designed for low-end Android devices in emerging markets, ITNewsAfrica reports.

Facebook could just as easily quietly discontinue the new standalone app, dubbed Facebook Lite, if the project is deemed unworthy of pursuing, according to the report.

The app is basically a simplified version of Facebook’s mobile website designed for Android devices in emerging markets.

The app was built to accommodate cheap, older Android phones, and users who are on 2G or poor-quality Internet connections. It’s based on Snaptu, Facebook’s feature phone client, but includes some native Android features such as camera integration and push notifications.

Facebook Lite has not been officially announced, according to thenextweb. The free app has only reached between 10,000 and 50,000 people since Jan. 20 when it launched on Google Play.

The app is a tiny 252-kilobyte download that includes Facebook’s messaging features and promises quick load times with efficient mobile data usage, thenextweb reports.

Facebook Lite has also been introduced in a few Asian countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Why is Facebook launching yet another app? According to Telecrunch, mobile is the primary Internet platform for millions. Facebook is making sure it offers a good experience to any user regardless of their network connection or device, even though it retooled its Android app for emerging markets in 2014. Android is the platform of choice for most smartphone owners in emerging markets where devices can cost $30 and up, Telecrunch reports.

Facebook already provides free access to a range of mobile Internet services through Internet.org, but it’s limited to certain African countries and launch times are subject to partnerships with carriers and other telecom industry players. Facebook’s thinking here is, why not pull together a Lite app that can potentially be pushed to millions of users overnight, according to Telecrunch.