Is it Time for More “Lite” Apps?

Some forty-five years ago a beer company decided that what consumers really wanted was a beer that was less filling but still tasted great. Miller Lite was launched in 1975 and quickly became the second best-selling beer in America. The advertising campaign for it was ranked by Advertising Age as the eighth-best ever — you remember it — “tastes great, less filling.” Then again, maybe you don’t.

I thought about Miller Lite as I read this NBC article the other day explaining why in an effort to expand their TAM (total addressable market) a number of leading tech companies are producing “lite” versions of their apps.

Companies such as Facebook, YouTube, Tinder, Spotify, to name just a few, are following this approach for expanding their global market coverage.

While the NBC article points to wireless data issues — either lack of bandwidth or the high cost of data — as the core reasons for these companies deploying their “lite” versions, I wonder if it is really more about user simplicity.

In the article, Tinder CEO Elie Seidman is quoted as saying Tinder’s “lite” app will have “all core functionality that has made Tinder so popular”. The article goes on to say that Tinder Lite will take up 25 times less space on smartphones and consume less mobile data.

If Tinder Lite has all the same functionality and takes up 25 times less space and consumes less mobile data, why would anyone ever want the full version? I mean, if I can eat a slice of pizza that has 25 times fewer calories and carbohydrates than a regular slice of pizza but tastes just as good, I think I’d be a fool not to choose the lite version.

Maybe app developers will learn some real lessons in building these “lite” versions that will reorient their product development approach from jamming as much functionality into an app to identifying the essence of the app experience they want to offer and delivering just that to the developed markets.

Has the app development world become so focused on “what could be” instead of “what should be” that they’re over-engineering things? It seems possible.

Another layer to this conversation is the self-perpetuating mobile handset ecosystem. Bigger apps with more functionality demand faster phones with greater storage capacity and longer battery life. This creates a virtuous and/or vicious cycle whereby developers push the app boundaries and then phone manufacturers come out with version after version to accommodate these increasingly hungry apps.

While the lite apps conversation has been focused primarily on consumer apps like Tinder and Facebook, this conversation has resonance in the small business market. Our Modern Commerce Monitor™️ data makes it clear that SMBs crave greater simplicity in the software they use. The keep-it-simple philosophy behind lite apps may be part of the answer to driving higher engagement with apps in the SMB space.

What do you think? Are lite apps about to have a moment?

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