The last decade has been immense in the development of the smartphone and the growth of social networking sites. Phones have become faster and faster while social networking sites have piled on features upon features on their apps to the point where they have become a bloated mess.
Fast forward to today, you will notice that social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are quite the resource hogs. On my Android phone, Facebook eats up 276MB of my internal storage, Twitter (132MB) and Snapchat (202MB). You would think that is bad but in the iOS side, the equivalent apps eat up way more storage than their Android counterparts. Facebook is a 362MB download, Twitter (212MB) and Snapchat (218MB).
That is not all, these apps also bog down your phone’s resources like using a considerable amount of your phone’s RAM and having numerous CPU wake up cycles to do certain tasks like background sync and requesting for GPS data. This means that these social networking apps also end up draining your battery considerably.
This ultimately ends up to a scenario where you would need a smartphone of a certain spec to ‘satisfy’ the needs of these social networking sites. The perfect ‘smartphone’ for social networking has plenty of fast internal storage, powerful CPU, lots of RAM and of course a really good camera.
Most of these features are found in high end phones which cost north of $500 which is not practical for a subset of the population who can’t afford them. They are only left to choose between a myriad of budget smartphones that have relatively tiny internal storage capacities (4/8GB), low amounts of RAM (512MB/1GB), slow CPUs and mediocre cameras.
This means that these people with such smartphones end up having a social networking experience that is lower in quality to the subset of the population who have high end smartphones when they are running the full blown official apps. This is especially true in the Android ecosystem where we have the bulk of the budget smartphone users who experience such issues as stuttering while scrolling since the CPU can’t keep up or can’t fully contain all of the apps in RAM since the available RAM is relatively tiny.
However, the industry has realized that the segment of users with budget smartphones can’t run their official apps well and that is why the trend of Lite apps has caught on. Although Lite apps provide the basic functionalities of the said app while saving data in the end, you still miss on a lot of features that you find on the main app.
For example, you can make video/audio calls and play games on Messenger but these are not available on Messenger Lite. My favourite implementation of the Lite experience is Twitter Lite where you get to enjoy the main features of Twitter as a Chrome web app, which is great! Facebook Lite is quite ugly in my opinion and it is better to access your account via the browser than use it if you’re on a budget.
Lite apps are good, no doubt about that, but it essentially creates two distinct experiences which is not great to be honest. It means for someone to have a really good experience on their social networking site, they have to get a better smartphone, which is not feasible for anyone.
In the future, we would love to have a situation where the current social networking apps are made smaller, use way less RAM and don’t bog down the CPU so that everybody can get a good experience. Alternatively, we might reach a situation where smartphone makers come up with cheap smartphones that are powerful enough to run the current social networking apps as they are, but this is highly unlikely due to economics.