Android’s Instant Apps feature which optimizes an app to load on a mobile browser without a user needing to install it onto the phone is now available for beta testing for developers. Instant Apps was debuted in May last year during Google I/O 2016 developer conference.
The feature works by splitting an app into multiple URL modules. A user can load an app by clicking on an Instant App URL, and developers will have to partition their apps into bits of executable pieces which is put together while clicking on an Instant App link. Google says that it worked with a small number of developers from companies like BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope, and Viki, “collecting user feedback and iterating on the product”. Apps from these companies will now be available for Android developers/users as a beta release.
The company added that an Android developer will first need to “modularize” their apps so that it can be downloaded and executed instantly. Developers can perform this using existing Android APIs and Android Studio development platform. Google says that developers will first need to “get rid” of any unknown/unused Android permissions, third-party permissions and libraries to make the app compatible with Instant Apps.
Apart from this, apps need to be encoded with URL-based navigation using “App Links” feature which allows Instant Apps to automatically handle web/URL links. Apps will need to be structured into “URL-addressable modules” that are under 4MB in size. Apps higher than 4MB in size will need to be “refactored” into smaller modules, which can be downloaded and run individually. More on this here.
With this google will officially blur the line between apps and web pages, allowing the user to have an app-like experience on browsers without tediously going to the play store, downloading and installing the app. Instant Apps will now allow developers to create a shareable link and share it on Twitter/Facebook and other social platforms–this eases marketing and promotion effort. In addition, the memory space constraint for a user is eliminated since they don’t need to download or install the app manually.
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Google also provides a similar “instant loading” feature with its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for all mobile browsers, which was launched in October 2015. It allows users to load web page faster on mobile using an external Google code built into web pages. The feature was later extended for news articles and allowed independent publishers, news organizations to sign up and even run ads over AMP.