Uber Rolls out New 'Lite' App in the Region

Published March 18th, 2019 - 07:30 GMT
Simpler, more data-friendly version to be launched in UAE, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Simpler, more data-friendly version to be launched in UAE, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)

Not everybody has a top-end mobile device, which doesn't allow them to enjoy the full features of certain apps.

But Uber wants to take everyone along for the ride, and the simplified version of its platform is ready to provide that same experience.

The ride-hailing company begins a new phase in its services in the region as it rolls out the Uber Lite app in UAE and Saudi Arabia today. Top-of-the-line apps normally require more space on a device, heavy consumption of data and a strong network for it to work. The idea behind the Lite version is to allow users to book their rides even on lower-tier or old smartphones - and even on patchy network connections.

Switching to the Lite app makes Uber continue on with its mission of "connecting millions to reliable transport", says Saad Pall, head of marketing for Uber Pakistan.

"We believe in connecting people through the touch of a button... in any network condition or any Android phone," Pall, speaking via video conference call from Lahore, told Khaleej Times during an exclusive preview of the app at Uber's Dubai offices on Sunday.

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Uber Lite is now available across a number of markets, including India - where it was built and first launched - Pakistan, Latin America, South Africa, Kenya, Bahrain and Lebanon. The roll-out in the UAE and Saudi Arabia reinforces the company's commitment to the region, especially in the Emirates, a fast-moving hub flush with on-the-go residents and tourists requiring convenient modes of transport.

"We're looking at expanding further into the region as we see the success of it," Shaden Abdellatif, communications manager of Uber Middle East and North Africa, said during the call.

"This region has been hugely important to making sure Lite is successful," she says, adding that there are several cities in the Mena wherein using the app will "make sense" for many riders.

Speedy growth in Mena xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

San Francisco-based Uber says that the Middle East and North Africa region is one of its fastest-growing markets. And aside from providing tens of millions of rides, it was also able to create hundreds of thousands in economic opportunities.

In the UAE, there are over 5,000 Uber drivers at present, serving more than 188,000 active riders.

In Saudi Arabia, Uber has complemented the Saudisation drive, which is part of Vision 2030's National Transformation Programme.

Uber Lite - at only 5MB, the size of three selfies, as they say - is a toned-down version of its app, with a simple interface that only requires four taps to book a ride compared to seven for the full version.

In areas that are a bit confusing, it will be able to detect a location of a rider. Maps are still available, though it won't pop up by default and can be triggered by the user.

Pall, who is based in Pakistan and oversaw Uber Lite's launch there, says users have commended the app for being simple and seamless, not to mention fast, too.

"It really just works for them. That's what matters to them."

Uber's officials also could not discuss news circulating that it would merge or acquire Dubai's Careem, saying it "does not comment on speculation".

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