STATISTICALLY SPEAKING, THERE’S a pretty good chance you’re one of the 1.2 billion people who use Facebook Messenger at least once a month.
Anecdotally, there’s a decent chance you harbour deep resentments toward its sluggishness, its bloat, and its liberally borrowed Snapchat features. Friends, there’s a better way. It’s called Messenger Lite.
You may have heard of Messenger Lite already, and if you live outside of the US, UK, Canada, or Ireland, you may already be using it. Facebook first launched Lite a year ago, intending it for markets whose fickle or low-bandwidth internet connections would collapse under the weight of the full-fledged Messenger platform. This week, Lite launched for those four more developed markets as well. And guess what? You should switch over to it immediately.
That directive comes with a couple of caveats: If you have an iPhone, this does not apply to you. Sorry! Facebook only released Messenger Lite on Android, with no signs of an iOS version in the offing. Secondly, if you are for some reason heavily invested in the Facebook Messenger games ecosystem, which I know must exist because there is a game controller tab in the Messenger app every time I open it, you should stick with the full-fledged version. Also, Lite doesn’t support Secret Conversations, Facebook’s end-to-end encrypted chat, but hey, that’s what Signal’s for anyway.
And that’s it! Everyone else: Let’s explore why Lite is absolutely right for you.
Lite As a Feather
It’s easier to focus on what Lite does have than what it doesn’t, because the list is so short. When you open Lite up, you get three gloriously straightforward tabs: Home, which shows your existing chats. Contacts, which, you know, and Profile, where you can adjust your notification settings, look at your message requests, switch accounts, report any issues, and that’s pretty much it.
No, really, that’s all! There’s no funhouse mirror room of tabs within tabs like you find in Messenger, in which opening the app presents you with, by my count, 10 tappable options (not including your recent conversations): Home, Contacts, Camera, Games, and Bots tabs, a Compose bubble, a Profile icon, and the option to sort chats by Messages, Active, Groups, and Calls.
I got tired just counting those, much less navigating them. And it never stops. Open a composition window in Messenger and you get options for your camera, for images, for voice dictation, for emoji and GIFs and stickers. You can call or video chat. Press the “plus” sign and you can send money, or your location, or summon a Food Network branded extension for some ungodly reason. You can send a thumbs up. You can also, I’m fairly certain, still type actual words.
Some of those choices persist in Lite, but not nearly enough to cause paralysis. You can still send a sticker, but it doesn’t animate. You can still snap a photo or dictate or call. But Lite does not contain the intricate, endless tunnel system that Messenger employs to squeeze all of its features into one bitty app. You can’t get lost in Lite. You can, though, send and receive messages quickly and efficiently, which seems just about perfect for an app called Messenger.
As user experience goes, I’m not sure what else to tell you, other than that all of the puffery in and around Messages mostly exists to keep you staring at Messages rather than necessarily improving your life and mind. You only have so many engaged minutes to give in one lifetime. Don’t spend them lobbing ingredients at a Food Network bot.
Shoot the Messenger
Lite doesn’t just save you time because there’s less to fiddle with. It also spares you very real seconds—and frustration—by not sputtering under its own weight, as its fuller-featured counterpart most certainly can and does. It’s a greyhound next to a slobbering Messenger mastiff.
Slimming down has other, unseen benefits as well. Lite takes up less than 10MB on your phone—and nearly 10 times less space than Messenger. The side benefit of stripping down so many features is that you use far less data. And it won’t stress your battery as much.
If you’re a Messenger power user, well, frankly you haven’t read this far because you’ve already switched back to your Word With Friends game. But everyone else: Switch to Lite. You can still get in touch with anyone who has a Facebook account. You can still make free calls over Wi-Fi. You can still give a thumbs up. But you can do it all without feeling like you’ve been dropped inside a digital labyrinth, a social (media) experiment to see just how many times you can tap your screen without actually accomplishing anything.
Civilisation may well have reached a point where contacting people over Facebook is an occasional necessity. But Messenger Lite at least means you can go ahead and get it over with.