Android Instant Apps

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Smaller, faster, thinner, leaner, new, shiny….

Now a month since the Google I/O conference, and plenty of time to reflect on the many exciting announcements, concepts have gelled and discussions have been had surrounding the possibilities coming soon from within the walls of Castle Google. Smarter device assistants, new home automation assistants, help at every turn because Google is learning to truly anticipate our desires in the context of which we want them. This is all very exciting. However, one announcement caught my ear more than the others and that was the concept of Android Instant Apps.

Briefly, Instant Apps is the seed of an idea that we will soon be able to utilize the core functionality of many available apps on the fly and without actually installing the app itself. What sort of wizardry is this, you may ask? An app without install? How much of the app do I get? What is it for? Where does it go when I am done? Why do I want this? Don’t I need to keep my apps around for future use? It’s a strange idea until you see it put into practice.

Let’s paint a picture of a fairly typical use case scenario where your client, who sells a myriad of delightful and exciting widgets, is in dire need of mobile app presence, complete with product feature pages, in-app purchasing, store locators and the like. They already have a web presence, which, let’s be honest, is dated and badly in need of update. Let’s not even speak of their mobile web presence and lack of responsive design…

Naturally, we pitch our client a beautiful, cutting edge and user friendly app concept that solves all their problems and is sure to push their sales through the roof. However, there is still that pesky problem of dated web presence, mobile web experience and driving app conversion; problems that will require additional resource to solve and accomplish. Unless… There was a simple way to drive users to your app as conveniently as sending them a web link.

That is where Android Instant Apps could really shine as they are, quite simply, modules contained within the CORE of your existing app which allow a user to access singular activities tailored to their immediate needs, in the moment. Rather than sharing content from an app space to another individual which then forwards them to an inferior web experience, the user can literally share the same rich in-app experience to another person with little effort.

Share a product page with a friend? Instant Apps. Send a video experience? Instant Apps. Scan a QR code to interact with a POS system tailored to immediate purchases? Instant apps. Any instant gratification, surprise and delight, could be solved with Instant Apps. All of these, gateways to app conversion.

As a developer, whose primary function for years was pure web development having now progressed to all things mobile, this concept is immediately appealing. Allow me the ability to work within a single platform solution without the need for stripped down, web based, experiences that lack the shine and robustness of our product offering. This is an exciting and important progression of app development that I anticipate will become common practice when going through the paces of application architecture, flow and UX design.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this concept as well. At this time, this is an Android only solution, although the announcement of Apple’s own ‘App Thinning’ aims at much the same idea. Also, this is not going to work for every case that comes through the door. Instant Apps would not, necessarily, be ideal for apps requiring user registration, stored data, multi-activity navigation, etc. But they could certainly contain features that tease what your app has to offer and, again, drive conversion to full app installs. Expect your clients to want this functionality but be prepared to educate them on where and how this ability will and will NOT benefit them.

In the near future, I fully expect to find SEO strategies that, for the first time, direct a user inquiry to not only relevant web content or even play store apps that might be useful to them, but actual content found WITHIN apps. Pretty cool. I encourage you to keep an eye out in the coming months as this is released more broadly to the development channels and see where this might fit into projects you are currently working on as well as projects you have already released.