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Mobile Apps

Facebook Lite expands to India, Philippines

The Lite version of the Facebook app is designed for people with budget Android phones stuck on slower 2G networks found in developing markets.

Facebook Lite is trying to win over India and the Philippines. Facebook

Facebook users in India and the Philippines with slow or spotty network connections can now tap into the Lite version of the social network's Android app.

Officially rolled out on June 4, Facebook Lite has already been available in countries across Europe. In the weeks since its debut, the app has been branching out to parts of Latin America and Africa. On Monday, it became available in India and the Philippines.

Facebook already offers an official Android app, so why the need for a Lite version? The Lite edition only takes up 435KB of storage. It installs more quickly and takes up less space than the regular version. It also loads at a speedier pace. Perhaps more importantly, the Lite flavor gobbles up less data than the full Facebook app, so it's aimed at people with low-end Android devices and slow or unstable 2G network connections -- both of which are found in emerging markets. The app itself supports all Android phones.

In contrast, the official Facebook app takes up around 30MB of storage and requires Facebook Messenger as a separate app if you want to chat with your friends. To work efficiently on slower networks, the Lite app doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the official edition. But it includes the core features, such as News Feed, status updates, notifications and photos. You won't find Facebook videos on the Lite version since they can hog bandwidth.

The app is part of Facebook's efforts to grab more users in developing markets. Facebook currently has more than 125 million users in India, Facebook product manager Vijay Shankar told technology site TechinAsia, and 90 percent of those users access the social network through mobile devices. Though the US and other developed regions are now on 4G networks, slower 2G networks are still prevalent across many parts of the world.

"Over 875 million people in the world access the Internet through 2G and we wanted to create a good user experience for these users to enable better access in emerging markets," Shankar told TechinAsia.

Facebook Lite launched earlier in the year in testing mode to such countries as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nigeria, Nepal, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. But the app didn't officially hit Google Play until this month. Though geared toward people in emerging markets, the app can be used by anyone with an Android phone who wants to chew up up less data over a cellular connection.

Facebook Lite is slated to expand to more markets in the coming months.