Last year’s Google I/O brought Android Instant Apps, which give people the ability to play around with apps without the need to actually download them. Since then, Instant Apps were put on the back burner, but it looks like they are finally ready for developers to tinker away.
In a nutshell, Instant Apps allow websites to load native applications from search results. These apps have the basic functionality of native Android apps, such as being able to request permissions, and do not require an update to the latest version of Android.
Instant Apps are not meant to replace regular applications – they are lightweight versions of their native counterparts, meant more as a tease than the full experience. Even so, Instant Apps can take the place of a regular website and offer a experience that is comparable to their full-sized versions without taking up as much space on your device.
Up until now, Instant Apps were limited to select partners, but with today’s announcement, Google now offers every developer the tools needed to build their own Instant Apps.
Developers need to put in a bit of work to make Instant Apps – these apps must be modular in order for folks to end up in a specific part of an app when they click on a URL. Furthermore, Instant Apps must be below a certain size and give users the ability to download the whole app if they like what they see.
Another thing for developers to consider is OS compatibility. Initially, Instant Apps could run on versions of Android as far back as 4.3, but that has been pushed up to 6.0. Google said support for Android 5.0 is on the way, but that will take some time. Furthermore, Android O should make Instant Apps better, since it allows for searching and launching of Instant Apps from the launcher.
Either way, expect to see a swath of Instant Apps as the year progresses.