If you’re looking for a good way to speed up your phone or cut down on your data usage, there are a lot of official “lite” versions of popular apps like Facebook or YouTube. These are generally less feature-rich than their full-powered counterparts, but they’re often a great middle ground between features and function.
What Are “Lite” Apps?
Big companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter want as many people as possible using their services. But not all phones are powerful for their full-featured apps, and some data plans are heavily limited. So, they’ve created “lite” versions of their apps for those audiences.
This is not to be confused with the hundreds of makeshift lite applications out there that are just containerized versions of mobile web sites, the apps on this list are official applications provided by the original developers (but they’re still sometimes containerized versions of mobile web apps). This is an important and noteworthy mention, because there are a lot of “fakes” out there—we recommend using the official lite apps whenever you can.
These official “lite” versions are generally designed for use in countries with less powerful Android devices and slower mobile internet. They keep the speed up and data usage down by omitting the superfluous features that people on slower connections wouldn’t be able to use anyway. But this can also apply to regular users too: if you’re a casual user of something like Facebook, the odds are there are tons of “features” that are just taking up space. So why not speed things up by getting rid of them?
RELATED: How to Sideload Apps on Android
Since these apps are generally designed for other countries, they’re not typically available from the Play Store in countries that have very robust data networks and ultra-powerful phones, like the United States. But you can still “sideload” them by grabbing the APK installer from a site like APK Mirror—a legitimate and trusted source for these apps. (If you’ve never sideloaded an app before, check out our guide to doing so—it’s quite easy!) That way, if you have a slower or older Android device, you can still benefit from the more lightweight, streamlined apps and make your aging handset feel snappy and new again.
As great as lite apps are on their own, they’re also just a band-aid to the bigger problem: the OS as a whole. Android has gotten more and more feature rich over the years, and as a result has required more powerful hardware in order to push it. But that’s also exactly why Google built a version of Android specifically for lower end hardware and the countries where these types of phones are prolific: Android Go.
Android Go is to Android what these lite apps are to the app ecosystem: a faster, lighter weight version of the operating system. It’s designed to run on devices with less than 1GB of RAM, making it incredibly efficient. Of course, trade-offs are aplenty when you have to modify a system to work on such limited hardware, but just like with lite apps, that’s to be expected. And honestly, it’s so much better than dealing with sluggish hardware that’s trying to compensate for lack of optimization.
The Best Lite Apps
Alright, now that you know what lite apps are and why you’d want to use them, it’s time to look at the best options for the apps you’re probably already using.
Facebook is one of the most popular apps on the Play Store, but the full app is notoriously big. The primary app is nearly 65MB in size, where the much smaller lite version only tips the scale at a measly 1.6MB. That’s a huge difference.
And compared to the full Facebook app, the lite version is really not that bad. It feels a little dated without all the bells and whistles, but if all you’re really worried about doing is checking notifications and scrolling through your feed (literally my entire Facebook usage), then it’s great. You won’t be able to do things like go live, but most other things things are available.
Facebook Messenger Lite
Similar to Facebook Lite, there’s a lightweight version of Messenger available too. It’s lacking nearly all of Messenger’s more robust features, like video chat, Facebook calls, SMS integration, and chat heads, but it’s pretty solid if all you want to do is text chat with Facebook friends. As a result, Messenger Lite is about a fifth the size of the full Messenger app (11MB vs. 55MB).
Unlike most other apps on this list, Messenger Lite is available in the US from the Play Store. Woohoo!
Twitter Lite is arguably the best lite application on this list, as it’s almost as robust as its much larger counterpart. It’s essentially a packaged version of the Twitter mobile website, which has undergone some major upgrades over the last several months—as a result, you’ll get a killer lightweight Twitter client that offers almost everything you need (including push notifications!).
If you’d rather not download and install something else, you can always just jump over to Twitter’s mobile site to get basically the same experience. Personally, I’m into having a separate app, but you do you.
This is basically just a lightweight Google search app—but unlike the other lite apps that omit only the excessive and heavy features, this one removes some useful stuff, including my favorite thing about the Google app: the Google Feed. As a result, this is literally a search app with a few quick links to things like weather and whatnot. It probably goes without saying, but that also means there’s no Assistant integration in Google Go.
Still, it’s not terrible, and it’s nice to have a super lightweight and snappy version just for quick searches, if that’s your thing.
Look, everyone loves YouTube. But if you’re finding the stock YouTube app to be a bit bulky and slow, YouTube Go is the answer. It’s super fast and light, and offers some of the better features of the stock app—like the option to save videos for offline viewing. It even asks what you want to do (save or view) each time you select a video and offers various quality levels. Very cool.
There are a lot of good video chat apps out there, many of which are arguably better than Skype—but if your grandma uses Skype, you’re stuck using Skype too. Thankfully, there’s a lite version. This app actually leverages Google Play’s testing feature, as it’s technically an “unreleased” app—at least on an official level. Like it’s bigger brother, it offers voice and video calling, text chats, and even SMS integration. As a way to conserve data, I imagine the video quality is a bit lower than what you’ll get with the full Skype app, but that’s the type of tradeoff you should expect from a lite application.
Other Apps to Consider
Those are some of the best lite apps, but the search doesn’t really have to end there. If you’re looking to lighten up the load even more and some of your favorite apps don’t have lite versions, you can also install a fast and lightweight web browser—like Puffin, for example—and then use the web version of your favorite apps. Instagram is a great example here, because the mobile web version is pretty good, and even allows you to upload photos.
Similarly, if you’re looking to save data, you can continue using Chrome and just enable the data saver—you may sacrifice quality on some of the pages you visit (again, Instagram is a good example here), but that’s a price you’ll have to pay to keep things light and snappy.