The line between web and mobile is about to get blurry with Instant Apps.
Part of a series on the evolving mobile web from Cuttlesoft.
At Google’s 2016 I/O Developer Conference, one of the more interesting developments, at least for mobile developers, was the announcement of Instant Apps. Instant Apps are a new way for developers to deploy features to mobile devices. Some features will be available, lightning fast, from Google search results in the browser. The update means that Android users will be able to access certain apps more quickly and conveniently.
But for businesses and enterprise developers, it means that change is coming fast. The ability to implement this new technology will give capable developers and the businesses they work for a huge competitive advantage over those who fail to adapt.
The ability to quickly access app features in-browser solves a variety of current problems with the way that mobile apps are deployed. No longer will users be forced to download and install apps they only plan on using once. This makes a lot of sense in light of recent news that 25 percent of users abandon apps after only one use. The days of the cluttered smartphone homepage, with dozens of unused apps, will soon be gone.
Apps like Yelp, which often open directly from the browser anyway, will benefit greatly from the increased speed and convenience that this new deployment medium provides. As mentioned in this AppleInsider post, Instant Apps also address the issues that arise with lower-end Android devices still using generations-old operating systems. According to the article, Instant Apps will be compatible with the Android OS dating back to 2012’s Jellybean.
Instant Apps will also have implications for businesses that allow users to make in-app purchases using Android Pay. If a user is directed to an app module for an online storefront, they will be able to select a product and pay using Android Pay. If the user already has an account, they will automatically be logged in. Chrome is streamlining these types of experiences to make them work with the fewest number of “taps” possible.
As with all new technologies, this new feature might leave some companies in the digital dust. Apps that require full installs may start to be seen as outdated or inconvenient, and users may stray away from them altogether. An app that can deploy in the browser has a major strategic advantage over non-instant apps, and the functionality (or lack thereof) may indeed “weed out” many old-school native Android apps that fail to adapt.
So the question remains: is your business prepared for Instant Apps?
Android HQ has stressed that working with Instant Apps will be largely similar to working with normal native apps. The same Android APIs will be used, most of the device functionalities available to native apps will be available to Instant Apps and only one code base will be required. Deep links in search results will simply access only the necessary module of an app in order to streamline its functionality. Current native apps will simply need to be “upgraded” to become instant-ready.
As far as app functionality and infrastructure, not much is changing. However, the capabilities of Instant Apps will require developers to think outside of the box in order to maximize their interaction with users. Since deep links on mobile search results will be able to take users directly to app features, developers will have to get creative in order to keep users involved after that “instant” moment of engagement.
With so much news coming from the Android side of mobile development, you’d expect Apple to come in with a swift response. While Apple announced the release of “App Thinning” a few months ago, they haven’t announced anything as groundbreaking as Instant Apps. Just like Instant Apps though, App Thinning is an effort to streamline content delivery and user experience.
There are, however, some things you should know about App Thinning. There are a few different forms of App Thinning available to developers. The first is called “app slicing”. App slicing involves breaking down an app into device-specific parts called “variants.” Why load all the content available if a device is only going to use a portion of it? App slicing aims to correct this problem by allowing developers to deploy device-specific modules that should speed up delivery and provide a better experience for users. Only the necessary architectures and resources needed for a particular device will be downloaded.
The second form of App Thinning is called “On Demand Resources.” ODR allows developers to store bandwidth-heavy app content (images, videos, sounds) on Apple servers for easy access and delivery. By allowing Apple to manage the server space and downloads, the content you place on-demand will free up space on users’ device storage while providing fast downloads and delivery.
Overall, these developments tie in with much of the other news coming from mobile platform developers lately. These, along with the announcement of dynamic linking and the Firebase console for Google developers, as well as Apple’s recent announcements about app indexing, point towards a more integrated future for the web and mobile apps that will have SEO experts scrambling to keep up. In our next post, we’ll discuss app indexing and the resulting SEO bombshells coming with it.