Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, Amazon launched an Android Internet browser optimised for users in emerging markets, where access to mobile data and high-speed connectivity is limited. The app is available for download on the Google Play store and has the rather generic name of "Internet: fast, lite and private". Like most lightweight apps, the new browser is a small download — less than 2 MB in size.
The browser is ideal for entry-level phones as it takes up less storage space and needs less memory than other mobile browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox and even Opera. Notably, Amazon highlights the privacy features of its platform, which doesn't ask for any extra permissions or collect private data.
Amazon isn't alone in building lightweight mobile apps for emerging markets. Its "Internet" browser is reminiscent of other platforms such as Facebook Lite, YouTube Go, and Gmail Go, all of which launched as slimmer versions of their original mobile apps. They offer the same basic features as the full apps and are optimised for patchy network connections.
As US technology companies see near-maximum market adoption by users in developed countries, they're looking for opportunities to reach users in emerging markets who may not yet have access to a fast Internet connection. For now, Amazon's new browser is only available for Android users in India.
It's clear that Amazon is placing huge focus on India. For example, it introduced a deal for its Prime subscription service at just 999 rupees (about $15) per year. Members also get unlimited access to Prime Video, and the company recently rolled out Amazon Music in the country, giving customers the ability to stream millions of songs. The online heavyweight is involved in a large struggle with Tencent-backed Flipkart for dominance of the Indian e-commerce market, and Prime is one of its biggest weapons.
With a large and rapidly-growing presence in the online shopping arena, and its foot firmly in the door when it comes to music and video streaming, it looks like Amazon is set to expand its reach in India with lightweight apps tailored for budget phones.
For its part, Flipkart uses the UC Browser developed by UCWeb, which is owned by Alibaba, for access to its mobile site, having struggled to make its app-only approach work two years ago. It is the number-one browser by market share in India, and also copes well in low-bandwidth conditions, thanks to data compression.
Mobile browsers are another angle on the clash of Amazon, Tencent and Alibaba in the Indian market.