Google is working on a very interesting feature that it calls ‘Android Instant Apps’. Showcased at the ongoing Google I/O 2016 keynote, this feature essentially runs an Android app on a smartphone without actually having to install it. In simpler terms, Google will basically be streaming an app on a device.
This feature will work for apps where the developers have split it into into multiple modules, and thanks to deep linking Google Play only fetches those modules that are necessary to run it on a smartphone. Once you have used the streaming app, you can also choose to install the full app if you want to.
So when searching for something, if the result is in an app, Google will open it and the experience is the same as having the app installed on your device. Google says this feature is possible due to deep linked app content. Deep Linking essentially allows Google to crawl the app content and allow users to enter the app from search results.
Developers need to add ‘intent filters’ for the relevant activities, which allows deep linking to the content. Depending on the app, Google says developers can modularize their apps in ‘less than a day’. Google says it is working with a select set of developers for now, and there is no specific time frame for the roll out of Instant Apps.
What was impressive during the on-stage demo was that the Instant Apps were running on an Android KitKat smartphone. In fact, the company says this feature will be compatible with smartphones running on Jelly Bean. With many sites and services taking on an app-only strategy, Android Instant Apps does make a lot of sense. It also becomes necessary for entry-level smartphones that do not have a lot of internal storage space for installing various apps. While interesting, it remains to be seen how it performs in real-world conditions.