For those who missed the tech industry news lately, at I/O conference in May this year Google announced a new feature called Android Instant Apps.
So what’s so cool about this feature? Instant Apps do exactly as the name suggests. It allows mobile web users to run an app instantly on their device by simply tapping a URL. No need of a lengthy download from the Play Store and it is executed pretty fast. Exciting right? Apparently Google intends to bridge the gap between installing and using a native app versus the smooth and seamless experience of browsing the web so that more users start using apps instead of web pages.
At Google’s demo on a device running Android KitKat, when the user clicks on a Buzzfeed video link to view a recipe, he is taken directly into the app and the video starts to play, all within a span of 2 seconds. On a shopping experience demo, a click on a link for a camera equipment takes the user right into the B&H Photo Video’s Android app where payment and sale is completed without ever installing the app. That pretty much sums it up. Isn’t it?
So what does it mean for developers? According to Ficus Kirkpatrick, the engineering lead on Instant Apps, the technology behind Instant Apps is quite simple. Developers need to split existing apps into several smaller modules and enable “deeplinking” in their apps. Google Play quickly downloads the correct piece that is needed and runs that piece as if the app was already installed in the Android device. What makes it so quick is that Google actually serves these apps directly from their own servers – instantly. The concept is somewhat similar to iOS 9.0.2 “app thinning” feature where users automatically download only the part of assets required to run on their specific iOS device.
The biggest barrier for app development is the downloading and installing part which is a major turndown to users. As the tech giant rolls out Instant Apps over the later part of the year, this could be one feature which can blur the thin line between apps and web pages – something which can change the way we use our smartphones forever.
It sure looks pretty exciting and Neologix is already gearing up our Android app development team to be ready as and when Google rolls out Android Instant Apps to more developers.