Uber Lite app
Cool factor 5/5
Usability 4/5
Price N/A

Last week Uber launched its Uber Lite app in SA — a stripped-down version of the original app designed for lower-spec Android phones and reduced data use.

It’s a great move in terms of digital inclusion in a country where economic inequality is, arguably, stickier than digital transformation. And if it finds its mark, more movement about a city and an uptick in digital services usage could mean a shift that’s good for broader business.

The Uber Lite app was developed in India and is now being rolled out to other emerging markets where access to data and smartphones remains an economic divider. It takes up just 5MB on a phone (as Uber’s marketing material puts it, "equivalent to just three selfies"), as opposed to the traditional app, which requires 100-plus megabytes.

This means it takes less data to download, and its footprint on the phone itself is minimised, which in turn means it is less demanding on mid-tier and lower phones.

It will also work with a 2G connection and up.

Once in the app, the interface is significantly simplified too. Instead of the map to track your drive, you’re offered a progress bar that counts down to arrival.

You can still access a map, but not as standard. Thankfully, though, the "share my ride" safety feature is still available.

This app might not be targeting high LSM readers, but the idea of bringing more people into the digital services space is positive. In a relatively compact city like Cape Town, for example, Uber rides around the city bowl can be as relatively affordable as R20-R30, and now the Uber Lite app means anyone with a basic smartphone can take advantage of that.

At this point the app is only available in the Play Store (Android), and for this review it was tested on an old Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo Plus device.