Instant Apps for Android looks like it's coming soon for most users

Google play
Ymgerman/123RF

Google’s time- and space-saving Instant Apps feature may be on the verge of a proper rollout, giving the majority of Android users a much more efficient user experience when it comes to app interaction.

The Mountain View company is already conducting limited testing of the feature, but a recent APK teardown of the Google Play Store by XDA Developers has revealed that work is afoot to finally launch Instant Apps for one and all.

The site came across new lines of code apparently directed at making it easier to opt out of Instant Apps, while also revealing that an app’s Play Store listing could come with a symbol of sorts indicating whether it supports Instant Apps.

The Instant Apps feature — unveiled at Google I/O 2016 and designed for Android devices running Android Jelly Bean 4.1 or up — enables an app to run immediately, without the user even having to download it if they don’t already have it. So if, say, a friend sends you a link to a really cool camera accessory on B&H’s site and you tap on it, you’ll be taken to the product page inside the B&H app, even if you don’t have the app installed. This is able to happen because the app has been split into modules and only downloads the part needed to display the relevant information.

Without Instant Apps, tapping on the link would’ve taken you to the web version of the site, likely offering an inferior user experience compared to the slicker app. Alternatively, you could download the app, but that’d take time to do, and also takes up space on your device. Of course, downloading the full app is fine if you’re a regular B&H shopper, but it’s not much use if you’re not.

The official Android Developers site describes Instant Apps as “an evolution in app sharing and discovery” that lets you “experience what you love about apps — fast and beautiful user interfaces, high performance, and great capabilities — with just a tap.” The feature is set to dramatically transform the way we interact with apps on our Android devices, though hopefully the experience will be so smooth we won’t even notice.

The current roster of compatible apps is likely to be limited at the start — Google has already announced B&H Photo Video, BuzzFeed, Medium, Hotel Tonight, Zumper, and Disney as early participants — but it shouldn’t be long before other developers adapt their own software to allow them to function as part of Instant Apps.