The app of my eye is changing before it – instant apps, that is; but certainly not like instant grits or oatmeal.
Announced last spring at Google I/O, the internet overlord has begun a limited test of its new Android Instant Apps technology and if all goes according to plan the whole app ecosystem will be changed forever. Well, at least the Android app ecosystem
Instant Apps give users the ability to access some features of an app’s functionality without actually downloading the full app – “run apps with minimal friction,” is how Google puts it.
“We’ve been working with a small number of developers to refine the user and developer experiences,” explained the Android Developers Blog. “Today, a few of these Instant Apps will be available to Android users for the first time in a limited test, including apps from BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope, and Viki.”
“To develop an instant app, you’ll need to update your existing Android app to take advantage of Instant Apps functionality and then modularize your app so part of it can be downloaded and run on-the-fly,” said Google. “You’ll use the same Android APIs and Android Studio project. Today, you can also take some important steps to be ready for Instant Apps development. The full SDK will be available in the coming months.”
Hmmm…”modularize.” Don’t bother looking that up in a dictionary.
The Instant App rollout comes at a time when app downloads are growing – 15 percent in 2016 – and app revenue grew by a whopping 40 percent in 2016, according to an annual report published earlier this month by App Annie, a respected market research company.
App Annie’s report also says time spent on apps grew in 2016 by 20 percent to almost 900 billion hours. Yes, you read that correctly: smartphone users worldwide spent nearly 900 billion hours on apps last year.
App use in the United States grew by 25 percent in 2016.
Over 13 billion apps were downloaded worldwide on the iOS and Android systems last year, says the report, and users paid developers $89 billion for those apps. Apple and Google paid out $35 billion to those app publishers. Interestingly, downloads from China accounted for almost half the revenue paid to Apple for apps.
The nation with the most app purchases from Google in 2016, says the App Annie report, was India (surpassing for the first time the U.S.).
It remains to be seen, of course, how Google’s Android Instant Apps will affect the actual coffers of the worldwide app market but the whole idea behind Instant Apps is to free up smartphone memory and storage by not actually having the full app installed on the phone.
“Android Instant Apps functionality is an upgrade to your existing Android app, not a new, separate app,” says Google. “It’s the same Android APIs, the same project, the same source code. The effort involved varies depending on how your app is currently structured. You modularize your app, and Google Play downloads only the parts that are needed, on the fly.
“Take advantage of Google Play services features — like location, identity, payments, and Firebase — which are built right in for a seamless user experience.”
For consumers, Instant Apps could be a game changer. For digital marketeers, Instant Apps may well present a whole new dynamic, one in which apps might in some cases become a very viable option not there before.