Facebook has announced a new Android app called Facebook Lite, which is a version of Facebook built from scratch to work smoothly with poor data connections and low-end phones. It’s an app for the entire world, namely developing countries where data connectivity is hard to come by.
But as we all know, Facebook knows a lot of information about you, and their Android app is one of the ways they collect your data. Is the Facebook Lite app any better?
What about the general user experience? Would it ever be worth it for someone with a stable and fast Internet connection to download Facebook Lite?
Let’s take an in-depth look at this app and answer all of those questions.
Benefits of Facebook Lite
As a download, Facebook Lite is under 1MB, and once installed, it takes up 2.82MB of space on my device. Compare that to the amount of space regular Facebook takes up, which is 195MB. This is not an insubstantial difference.
Additionally, Facebook Lite doesn’t preload photos in the way that Facebook does. Instead, it downloads low-res versions of photos that you can scroll through in your timeline, and if you actually tap on one, then it will download the higher resolution version.
Likewise, when uploading photos, the images are compressed and sent in the background so that the user doesn’t have to stare at an uploading screen for minutes at a time.
Facebook Lite isn’t just a wrapper for the mobile website — it’s a completely redesigned app. The status posting feature has been moved up into the top of the app (rather than a floating button in the bottom right), which means that the search bar has been shrunk down into a button.
In all honesty, the layout isn’t worse; it’s just different. You still have the same basic tabs — News Feed, Friends Requests, Messages, Notifications, Search, and Options — you just can’t swipe between them; you have to tap them.
There is generally bigger text and buttons, which is intended for devices with low resolution screens. It still has a semi-modern look with white cards over a grey background — there’s just no real shading effect behind them.
In the notification panel below, you can see that the Lite version doesn’t feature the profile photos of anyone, instead opting for small, low-res images to denote whether someone liked or commented on something. The only thing a bit off is that there’s no border between the notifications and the sides of the screen, making it feel squished.
Scrolling through the Lite app is noticeably jerkier than scrolling through regular Facebook. It’s clear that they made some cuts to allow it to function properly on devices with low RAM and low CPU power. Other “features” have been removed, like Facebook’s in-app browser that many people disable anyway.
All in all, the app is certainly usable, if a bit less smooth than the regular Facebook app.
Security and Privacy
Facebook definitely loves your information, and you want to be sure that they’re not just handing it out to everyone. Well for starters, they have an online tool so you can verify your privacy settings, but once you’ve done that, it’s not a bad idea to see what permissions that mobile app has on your device.
Some people consider the regular Facebook application’s permissions to be a bit invasive. You can see all of those below.
It looks like a long list, but Facebook Lite’s list is nearly as long:
The major differences? Regular Facebook has permissions to set/change the wallpaper, change audio settings, read/toggle sync settings, and expand/collapse the status bar. So nothing too dramatic.
Basically, if regular Facebook’s permissions are too invasive for you, Facebook Lite’s probably are as well. Your best bet to avoid permissions is simply to access Facebook’s mobile website via your favorite browser, and for even more safety, access Facebook via Tor.
However, if you also use Facebook’s messaging feature, there is another app you have to take into consideration: Facebook Messenger. Below are some (but not all) of Facebook Messenger’s permissions.
Most notable here is that Messenger has the permission to send SMS messages, and if that worries you, then rest assured that Facebook Lite does have the messaging feature built-in, it’s just a bit toned down. Let’s take a look at that.
Since Facebook Lite includes the messaging feature, some people might be inclined to download it instead of the Facebook + Messenger combo. A while back, Facebook decided to force all of its app users to download Messenger if they wanted to continue using the messaging service.
But if you’re going to make the switch, how does Lite compare to messenger? See for yourself. Lite is below on the left, and Messenger is below on the right.
Lite is obviously not as attractive as Messenger. Message bubbles are blockier and don’t include timestamps or read receipts. But the core messaging feature is still there. If you found Messenger to be too bloated, Lite might just be the messaging app you were looking for anyway.
And if you’re a fan of Facebook’s stickers (how could you not be? They’re adorable), then you’ll be happy to know that even the Lite version supports them. However, their organization is beyond poor. You’ll have access to a limited number of emoji and a very random listing of stickers. It’s functional, but it’s not great.
How Do I Download Facebook Lite?
Facebook Lite is currently being rolled out across parts of Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. The Play Store listing is visible to everyone, but if you’re not in one of the countries Facebook has chosen, you’ll see a message saying: “This app is incompatible with all of your devices.”
Download: Facebook Lite (Free, Google Play Store)
If you’re not in one of the countries where Lite is officially available through the Play Store, you can still download it through a website called APK Mirror and sideload it onto your device.
Download: Facebook Lite (Free, APK Mirror)
The current version at the time of this writing is 188.8.131.52.128, but be sure to download the most recent version available and check back regularly for updates.
Which Do You Use?
Facebook isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re an avid user, one of these apps is sure to appeal to your needs. If not, we do have some alternative Facebook apps and alternative Messenger apps for you to try.
And if Facebook’s ever causing you any trouble, be sure to check out these tips on how to reclaim your Facebook sanity.
But we’d like to hear from you. What do you think of Facebook Lite? Is it useful in any way? Let us know in the comments!