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Google’s new Instant Apps promise an “install-free” experience
Instant Apps brings the mobile web and apps closer together, providing app functionality without the download.
Today at Google I/O, the company introduced what it’s calling Google Instant Apps — for Android. Simply put, it’s a way to bring app experiences to the mobile web and provide access to deeper app functionality without a download.
Without knowing much right now about the technology, Instant Apps appeared to me to be a new manifestation or evolution of App Streaming, which most people haven’t yet experienced. Triggered by a simple link (or deep link), users are taken to the relevant part of the Android app in question — BuzzFeed video was demo’d.
In a way, this is like “AMP for apps” because Google has created a much faster way to access app content and functionality. This is not unlike the idea behind AMP, where Google pre-downloads or caches content pages for faster loading. With Instant Apps, app content is rendered in a modular way; only parts of the app are made available.
Upon completion of the desired task or content, the consumer can be given a prompt to download the full app. This then becomes another way for Android developers and publishers to get their apps in front of people without the front-end friction of downloads before content can be accessed.
In a retail or product context, these modular app components can function like landing pages. One could even imagine Instant Apps being linked from PLAs or other search or display ads. Users would then be taken via deep link into an Android app experience without the app actually being on the user’s phone. This allows, for example, an app-like checkout process to tap into Android Pay for expedited checkout.
In order to get this to work, developers must “modularize” their apps, which could take as little as “a day of work,” depending on the complexity and structure of the app. According to Google:
You modularize your app, and Google Play downloads only the parts that are needed, on the fly. And when you do upgrade, your app will be available to more than a billion users on Android devices going back to Jelly Bean.
Google said it has tested the functionality with only handful of partners: BuzzFeed, B&H Photo, Medium, Hotel Tonight, Zumper and Disney. Instant Apps holds some significant and very interesting implications for the mobile user experience and for app developers and publishers in terms of how they market and expose apps to users.