Spotify takes the Lite route to navigate India’s patchy internet

Ear to the ground.
Ear to the ground.
Image: Reuters/Christian Hartmann
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Yet another global internet firm has realised that the key to winning in India is to create less data-hungry apps.

Today (July 9), Spotify launched a light version of its app in 36 countries, including in India. “(Spotify) Lite is a small, fast, and simplified version of our unparalleled music experience that works much like the main Spotify app,” the Swedish music streaming company said in a press release.

In India, Spotify Lite, available for those with Android 4.3 and beyond, will be a 10 megabyte (MB) version, compared with 30MB for the main app.

Spotify follows American giants such as Facebook and LinkedIn that have launched lighter versions of their apps to attract users in the world’s second-largest smartphone market, where internet costs are relatively high and speeds are often abysmally slow.

The launch comes two months after Spotify started beta-testing its app, which saw high user interest, according to Amarjit Singh Batra, managing director, India, Spotify.

Spotify Lite comes with the ability to set a data limit and get notified when the usage hits the threshold, and it lets users clear their cache to free up more space available on their devices.

Less is more

Internet costs have come down considerably in India in recent years after the launch of Reliance Jio in mid-2016. However, “there’s lots of data but no bandwidth,” said Yugal Joshi, vice-president at Texas-based consultancy Everest Group. “When you stream anything, the quality is still poor.”

So, large companies continue to offer lighter apps in India.

In July 2017, Facebook brought Messenger Lite to India. Last year in April, e-commerce giant Amazon introduced ‘Internet’, a data-light mobile web browser for Android phones that promises to be “extra small,” allowing for ample storage space on phones. Four months on, Twitter Lite came to the app store. Gaming phenomenon PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) also just launched PUBG lite for low-end PCs.

For Spotify, the move is a smart one because “streaming services anyway use more data than text-based apps,” said Joshi. And it’s a first mover in the sector.

As India’s music-streaming space gets saturated with local and international players such as Gaana, YouTube Music, and JioSaavn, a lite app could help Spotify onboard more users. Other apps could also follow suit considering Spotify is a “gold standard” in the industry, Joshi said.