Line aims lightweight chat app at developing countries

Line Lite is under 1MB and doesn't have audio and video, but it reflects the company's strategy

Mobile chat app company Line said July 23 it is launching a lightweight version of its app for regions where network infrastructure is less developed or where lower-end smartphones are more common.

Mobile chat app company Line said July 23 it is launching a lightweight version of its app for regions where network infrastructure is less developed or where lower-end smartphones are more common.

Japanese mobile chat firm Line has launched a stripped-down version of its popular chat app to increase its user base in developing countries, where lower-end smartphones are commonly used and network infrastructure is not as advanced.

Line Lite is a lightweight version of the dominant chat app in Japan, tipping the scales at under 1MB and installing in one-twentieth the time it usually takes.

It has Line's iconic cartoonish emoticon characters, which are also known as stickers, as well as text chat, but lacks audio and video calls as well as the app's timeline and other features.

The app is being initially launched in 11 countries including India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico and Egypt. The company plans to add countries as well as app features in the future.

In launching the stripped-down chat app, Line has taken a cue from Facebook, which tested a basic version of its mobile app earlier this year that's designed for 2G networks in areas with limited connectivity.

Line, a subsidiary of South Korean Internet portal Naver, claims over 205 million monthly users in 230 countries and regions, as well as about 17 billion messages exchanged every day and the top share for messaging apps in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan.

In Japan, Line has launched a taxi-hailing service and a streaming music function. Faced with stiff competition in other developed markets, it has focused on countries such as Indonesia and Mexico to gain traction.

"Our biggest strategy is to look at the trends of individual markets and localize to meet those trends," Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa said in May. When Line achieves top share in a given market, it launches additional services to increase the ways users can interact with its app, he added.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

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