Facebook quietly launched a new stand-alone app over the weekend in a handful of test markets in Africa and Asia, according to TechCrunch.
Facebook Lite, a simplified version of the company’s mobile website from about five years back, has been designed specifically for bottom-of-the-line and dated Android devices in emerging markets. It is a mere 252 KB in size and is aimed at users on 2G — a low-quality Internet connection. And while it is based on Snaptu, the company’s feature phone client, it does include some native Android features, like push notifications and camera integration to add some luster to the experience.
The app was reportedly unveiled in Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The launch could be expanded further depending on its success.
Why, you may ask, is Facebook launching yet another app? The company, already the world’s largest social networker, sees untapped potential in the emerging markets of Africa and South Asia, where mobile Internet will be — if it already isn’t — the primary platform for Internet for millions of users, per TechCrunch.
“Smartphone sales are soaring in India, which was the fastest growing market in Asia Pacific in Q3 2014,” according to the website.
Android is the prefered platform for most smartphone owners in emerging markets because devices begin at the relatively low cost of $30. And although Facebook retooled its Android app for those regions just last year, it is now concerned that it provide a good experience to users with low-end and/or dated devices and poor connections.
The initial reaction appears to be a positive one, as the app has already received more than 10,000 downloads, as well as a 4.6 rating from the first 693 reviewers.