NAIROBI: Google has released a search app designed to take account of the prevalence of lower-end devices and slower connections across much of Africa and which allows consumers to use local languages.

There are currently an estimated 230 million smartphones in sub-Saharan Africa, a figure that is predicted to almost double in the next couple of years, but many have less than 1GB of RAM and very little storage.

Google Go, which takes up only 5MB of device storage, works on 2G networks and reduces the amount of data needed to display search results by 40%; it also allows previous searches to be accessed offline.

Users can search in Kiswahili and other languages will be rolled out soon, the Financial Times reported.

“Users come to us to experience the web and access accurate information quickly,” said Mzamo Masito, Google Africa Chief Marketing Officer. “Unfortunately, users can’t always decide on the type of device they have or the kind of connection they are on.

“Google Go is designed from the ground up to address these issues and provide a seamless experience irrespective of what device or network the user is on.”

His colleague Charles Murito, Google country head for Kenya, added that “Someone in Turkana [in northern Kenya] shouldn’t have any worse an experience than someone in New York just because they don’t have as good a device or connection.

“Google Go gives the same search results but with a better, lighter and faster experience,” he stated.

Earlier this year, a video equivalent, YouTube Go, was rolled out to 130 countries where consumers have to contend with high mobile data costs and/or poor connectivity; users can download video to view offline and share via device-to-device connection.

Other tech giants have taken a similar approach in developing markets but found a ready audience in developed markets where users face similar storage problems because of the wealth of features in apps.

A particular bugbear is so-called bloatware – the pre-installed apps that many consumers don’t want and never use but can’t uninstall. But Deutsche Telekom customers are now able to choose which apps they want to install on new Android devices.

Sourced from Financial Times, BizCommunity, The Verge; additional content by WARC staff