In 2020, all records for mobile app downloads were broken, and worldwide spending reached almost $111 billion. As the numbers show, we can no longer live without our apps.
That’s why Instant Apps are so interesting. This Google Play feature allows using an app with no need to download it completely. With this solution, we can easily use the apps we need without filling up the memory of our mobile device.
- What is an instant application
- The history of instant applications
- What developers need to consider
- Examples of instant applications
What is an instant application
Instant applications, also called Google Play Instant or Android Instant, are the alternative to downloading and installing a full application. They allow us to use some functionalities without having to host it in its entirety and therefore, without taking up hardly any storage space.
An Instant App is how to use only the pieces that interest us within an application, so they could be considered mini-applications with mini-programs.
These apps are presented to users in the form of a “Try Now” button on the Google Play Store page, a link in an email or an alternative delivery method such as a QR code. In this way, you can obtain a preview experience before deciding to download and install the full application.
Once clicked, Google Play automatically sends the files needed to run the functions, with no downloads, installations or waiting.
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One of the main benefits of instant applications is their easy testability, which allows users to get to know new applications easily and quickly.
Another benefit is that they require less hassle on the part of the user, which decreases the likelihood of users leaving negative feedback.
However, there are some challenges associated with these applications such as security issues. An instant application consists of smaller software modules or code sets, which facilitate more attack vectors.
Another limitation is that they cannot use background services or notifications, access a device’s external storage, or access device identifiers such as International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) or Message Authentication Code (MAC) addresses.
The history of instant applications
In May 2016 Google announced that it was developing Instant Apps at its annual conference and a year later, in 2017 these applications were already made available to Android developers and Android Studio 3.0 was launched to provide support when developing them.
This software has been a revolution for all kinds of apps. For example, China’s leading messaging app, WeChat has more than 840 million active users and is already using integrated apps that require no download or installation. Once used, these instant apps remain in the user’s WeChat list but can be easily removed. WeChat’s instant apps revolutionize traditional messaging accounts and enable online shopping and a wide range of other services.
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Google launched a similar feature called Instant Apps for Android in May last year, but it has not yet been officially launched.
Both Apple’s App Store and Android will continue to explore the new “mini-programs” which represent a challenge because of the large number of possible functions they can offer.
What developers need to consider
Now, let’s take a look at some elements that should be taken into account when developing them:
You have to include the Google Play Instant API in your application.
If you are using any previous instant application plugins, they can be removed. The new Instant API does not require plugins and, with it, you can use one code for both Instant and full versions of the application.
Facilitate the instant experience.
The instant application version code should be smaller than the actual application version code. Thus, when users switch from the instant app to the full installation, Google Play considers it as a simple update.
It should be remembered that instant apps are not installed on the device, but operated from an isolated storage space, so we will need to include the targetSandboxVersion attribute.
In addition, to make a module compatible with an Instant App, we need to add lines of code in the base module and in the modules where the Instant App will be included.
When the URL is loaded on mobile, you need to add a second intent filter, then incorporate category and action markup into the intent filter, created earlier, and finally, add the URL schemes.
Ask users to install the full version.
Once we have the instant app, the next step is to invite the user to install the real application, showing a message that encourages the user to download the full version.
You can test Instant apps directly by installing them from Android Studio or downloading them from Play Store, using the internal testing feature.
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If you are not sure how the app works when downloaded from Play Store, then in-house testing can be done by generating an Android app package, uploading it to the in-house test track and adding the tester’s mail IDs to be able to test.
Examples of instant apps
1. Marvel Strike Force
Their latest release is MARVEL Strike Force, a role-playing game that pits a team of Avengers against Marvel villains.
To recreate the Marvel Universe, they teamed the mobile app with hundreds of animations, innovative effects, which made for a very heavy game, initially over 500MB.
FoxNext decided to try Google Play Instant to achieve the goal of getting the game under 10MB.
They succeeded, and the game’s seven-day retention rate increased by almost 30%. Conversions increased by 32% and revenue per user grew by 49%. Today, the game has reported more than 10 million installs and a 4.3 rating on the Play Store.
Evino is a wine company based in Brazil. The app helps users discover a wide variety of wines and access special offers.
Through Google Play Instant they wanted to be able to introduce their app to new consumers and make the app easy to use. To achieve this, the app needed to be smaller, streamlining their checkout process without affecting other important functionalities.
They solved this by implementing Google Pay as the only payment option. By eliminating the parts of the code needed to process credit cards, they were able to substantially reduce the application size.
Evino increased downloads by 8% and allowed users to try the app without having to install it initially, they were able to attract a large number of new customers. In fact, Evino reported that 51% of purchases made through the instant app were first-time buyers.
3. Panda Pop
Jam City is a game developer and creator of Panda Pop, a bubble shooter game with the goal of rescuing trapped baby pandas.
They decided to take advantage of instant applications to optimize the game from a code architecture and design standpoint, as well as high-quality reproductions.
They created and launched an instant version of Panda Pop, which the user can play by clicking the “Try Now” button in their Play Store listing. The instant app was limited to the first 10 levels, thus significantly reducing its size, eliminating unnecessary code.
They removed all unused add-ons and reduced the size of textures and other assets such as scenes, scripts, and animations.
The result was that users were able to enjoy a reduced version of the game, without the need to download or wait, which encouraged more users to perform the full installation.
When creating an application, considering the implementation of an instant application could be very beneficial for the business. It allows users to perform actions, or even in-app purchases, much faster and without a second thought. Plus, instant apps could mean the true future of apps.
If you are interested in an instant app for your business, talk to us. We’ll be happy to help!