Android Instant Apps

Sonaam Hitang

Lead Mobile Developer

Google announced Android Instant Apps at Google I/O 2016 developer conference, and since then has been slowly rolling out and testing the new product in a limited release. There’s a lot that could happen with the format, so we’re here to look at the details, and also talk about the scenarios where Instant Apps could have a profound effect on the industry.

So, What are Instant Apps?

Instant Apps in android are just like any other regular apps that provide users with a functional app experience without actually installing in your device. They’re a portion of an app which can be opened from a URL found either websites, ad banners or any social links. So, for instance, you just want to order a taxi, or lunch, or book a room - an Instant App allows you to use  a portion of the app, without having to download all of the other features.

So basically Instant Apps will  give provide users exactly what they need at a precise moment; providing content instantly while removing the barrier of installation. It’s just like browsing a website but the user would have a pure native app experience. There could be many potential benefits to Instant Apps like having to convince people to download the full app (with all the permissions attached.) Furthermore, for users without much storage left.

With significant uptake, Instant Apps could prove to be a very powerful force in the marketplace, particularly in places where data is a scarce resource.

With Instant Apps you get a beautiful interface with native performance and capabilities in a single tap. The users are able to visit any part of your website, like search, social media, messaging or pretty much any other URL, and view it in the Instant App without needing to install it first. So it feels like you’re just streaming an app in to your device just like a website.

If you’re familiar with Android, you are probably sceptical about whether or not this is going to be worth it – it’s probably just for the latest version

This great thing about this feature is that it’s not only limited to the latest version of Android but it goes all the way back for Android 5.0 (Lollipop)

Additionally, Google has also listed few apps that have launched instant apps and have noticed increase in their native app experience. Vimeo is claimed to have seen "increased session duration by 130 percent with their instant app." Jet, a shopping platform based in the US, since launch of their instant app have seen conversion rate increased by 27 percent.

How to enable/disable Instant Apps?

Google lets you choose whether you want to see Instant Apps or not. In case, you don’t want to see them, here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Go to Settings > Google > Instant Apps

Step 2: Tap on the toggle button to opt in or out.

Step 3: If you have opted in, do read Google Play Terms and Conditions

If you don’t see the Instant Apps option in Google Settings, it simply means the feature hasn’t been rolled out for your device yet.

Under the hood

Every instant app must have one (and only one) base feature APK. If  the instant app only has one feature, then it needs only  the base feature APK; additional feature APKs are optional. If the instant app has multiple features, then the base feature APK typically contains shared resources and code files that other features depend on. The base feature APK is always downloaded regardless of what feature is requested by the user.

You can have feature APKs in addition to your base feature APK. Additional feature APKs can contain pieces of the app that correspond to a feature. The feature APK contains the entry-point activity for the feature and any unique resources the feature requires.

The following diagram illustrates the relationship between the Instant App APK and feature APKs.