The cyber space is buzzing with the new feature introduced by Google called Android Instant Apps and the reason is quite intriguing. Imagine using an app without installing it. Yes! Just launch, no downloading for Google Play Store, no installation required. The trick is, tap on a URL and you get Instant Android app running without bothering about getting the full app installed. Great idea isn’t it?
The Android feature announced at Google’s I/O developer conference on Wednesday, was born out of the fact that many people seldom use some apps on their device drawer after installing it. The app stays put on your mobile for months, even years without hitting the delete button, occupying space. At such times, most people don’t want to download a full-blown app, nor do they want it to stay on their phone after they’re done with it.
Here is what that would look like in practice: say you are in a new city and want to pay for parking with whatever parking app the local municipality is using. You hold your phone to the parking meter, the built-in NFC chip reads the info, and the native app appears almost instantaneously. There is no need to download the app or even log in (or to uninstall it later).
Speaking to TechCrunch, “Instant Apps is really about re-thinking where apps are going,” Google VP of Engineering for Android Dave Burke said. The idea behind Instant Apps is to make the native app experience as convenient as surfing to a website. “Web pages are ephemeral,” he said. “They appear, you use them, and never think about them again.” Apps, he argued, have lots of friction and often you only want an app to perform one action or to get a specific piece of information.
When an Instant App is closed, it’s permanently gone. Technically though, it lives on in your cache for a few hours, in case you want to open another such link again, but there’s no app on your home screen. Android can reclaim the space if it’s needed. And, if you the app is a keeper, you can install the full app using the Install button in the instant app’s top right corner.
Android Instant Apps and Developers
Over the years, developers have invested significant amount of time to build both simple and complex Android app, some which require users to engage in multiple taps and several minutes of going through the installation process. Now that users have access to Instant app, it’s a big frustration for developers.
Android Instant Apps are designed for developers who have already built an existing Android app, not those looking to build one from scratch. “It’s the same Android APIs, the same source code, the same project,” Android Instant Apps product management director Michael Siliski told VentureBeat. “In fact, it’s taken some developers as little as a day to get up and running.”
With that out of the way, it is now necessary for developers to modularized their app so that users only download the necessary bits from Google Play. For some, that could take quite a bit more time to enable all of this new functionality — it very much depends on the complexity of the app and how the code is structured.
Interestingly, this feature is not solely for Android N. Apps will run in a secure sandbox and once released, will work on Android Jelly Bean devices and up, meaning over 1 billion Android users.
While there is no limit on the number of Instant Apps that developers can make, they need to use Android Marshmallow or Android N permissions. But the biggest restriction is that each module cannot exceed 4MB. On the other hand, it’s a blessing as developers will not have to beg for reviews to climb up rankings. Simply publicize the app around social media and they are good to go.
The goal is to have Instant Apps launch in a time-frame that is “comparable to a mobile webpage,” Siliski said. That’s “typically a few seconds,” but there is no hard set requirement that Google dictates because the team expects developers are already motivated to get their load times as fast as possible.
Android Instant Apps; The Place of Google PlayStore
Google perceives this as a new way to discover apps outside of the Google Play store. All existing Android app links are very much compatible with Instant app hence, users can launch Instant app using current links. In reality, Google Play Services is the brain behind every move. However, Android devices that don’t have Google Play installed won’t be able to use Android Instant Apps.
For now, Google is taking a step at a time with Android Instant apps as this is a big change for both developers and users, “we want to make sure we get this right,” Siliski said. Presently, partners are trying Instant Apps: Buzzfeed, B&H Photo Video, Medium, Hotel Tonight, Zumper and Disney then will be rolled out to users later this year.