Google has just unveiled a plan to make Play Store apps as accessible as visiting a mobile web page, or so it seems. The concept is called Android Instant Apps, and it was announced at the annual Google I/O conference held last week.
The plan is to give Android app developers the opportunity to modularize their mobile apps, or break them down into several components, and then make those individual components available to consumers on-demand. The end goal is for Android users to have access to mobile app experiences without actually having to install mobile apps.
You can think of this as the equivalent of slicing Play Store apps into separate “mini apps” with their own unique web addresses. It sounds complex, but Google claims the process of modularizing Play Store apps into Instant Apps will be simple, and that an Android update for Instant Apps will become available to developers later this year.
In theory, the benefits of Instant Apps appear generous. If Instant Apps can truly encourage Android users to find and enjoy “mini mobile app experiences” more often than not, there could be some potential wins for everyone involved. For example…
- Instant Apps could serve as a funnel that influences greater numbers of users to interact with your brand. If users can experience part of your app on the mobile web via a deep link, without having to download your entire app, you could attract engagement from users who never would have otherwise used your product.
- Instant Apps could also encourage more people to access Android apps during life’s micro-moments. These are the moments when consumers feel fervent urges to seek entertainment, purchase products, socialize or carry out other high-value actions. It’s sometimes hard to feel spontaneous or act on a sudden impulse in the Play Store when you have to wait at least a few seconds to install a mobile app. Instant Apps could restore the spontaneity of the Android app economy, and ramp up sales or in-app purchases as a result.
- If the perceived benefits of Instant Apps truly pan out, mobile app start-ups and established businesses could see more Android app usage, new sessions and revenue earned over the long-term.
Instant Apps might sound ideal from a conceptual standpoint. But, Newton’s third law is still very much in effect. Remember that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that there are also some potential negative implications that Instant Apps could hold for mobile professionals involved in the Android sphere. For instance…
- Because so much of user engagement relies on habituation, push notifications, personalization and in-app messaging (aka having mobile apps installed on your device), Instant Apps could also spark a chain reaction that negatively impacts user engagement rates across the board.
- It’s not certain if Google can guarantee that reliable user experiences will take place through Instant Apps. This has the potential to negatively impact app ratings, user reviews, search rankings and brand credibility if not carried out extremely cautiously.
- It still isn’t clear if Instant Apps are truly what Android users want, or if this concept is something that’s more aligned with Google’s interests (like protecting the mobile web and Google Search)
However, the biggest question of all still remains…
Should Google even be “obstructing” the unique user experiences and reliability that many Play Store apps currently offer?
By leading the way with Instant Apps, Google may be essentially undermining the tireless work that has gone into building so many traditional Play Store apps with reliable UX’s.
Overall, it’s still too early to tell what will come of Instant Apps. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Instant Apps concept actually exposes Android users to better and more frequent mobile app experiences, or if it simply creates another obstacle that teams will have to overcome in the already-challenging mobile app economy. Either way, we’ll be right there with you for the Instant Apps adventure that awaits us all.
To learn more about Instant Apps, checkout Google’s presentation from Google I/O 2016.
What do you think of the concept of Instant Apps? What effects do you think it will have on the mobile app ecosystem? We would love to hear your thoughts!