Google today opened up its Android Instant Apps tool to all developers, allowing any app writer to create and publish an instant app. The idea is to increase the likelihood that people will find your app and, based on a preview within the browser, elect to install it.
Google first announced Instant Apps at Google I/O last year. Since then, it has been testing instant apps with a handful of select partners. Starting immediately, Google says more than 50 instant apps are available from some of these partners, including HotPads, Jet, Vimeo, and One Football. Instant apps are available in more than 40 countries. These instant apps have been up for a short time, and Google claims the early data delivers promising results.
Why bother with instant apps? Apps that are instant app compatible have a greater chance of finding users. Google imagines a scenario in which people search for an app, find it listed in search results, and test it directly from that search results page in their mobile browser. The instant app will run even when the app itself is not installed on the handset in question.
Instant apps are going to require a bit of effort.
To start, developers interested in creating instant apps will need to download the Android Studio 3.0 canary build (yes, canary) and the new Instant Apps SDK. Google says developers will be able to use a single codebase, and Android Studio 3.0 contains all the tools developers need to modularize their app so that features will run properly in the browser. Based on feedback from its early partners, Google warns it will take most developers between four and six weeks to create their first instant app. The Play Console will then provide the support needed to distribute the app. Developers need only upload the instant app APKs with the standard installable APK.
For its part, Google says Android O will be ideal for instant apps. The new version of Android includes a more efficient runtime sandbox for instant apps and includes sharable support libraries to help reduce app size and integrate with launchers.
If you're skeptical that instant apps are worth the effort, consider this: AMP and Progressive Web Apps are "redefining mobile web development" says Google. AMP content is highly visible and gets more eyeballs. Similarly, PWAs are delivering success stories all around the world. Google points to good things from Wego and and Forbes --both of which have seen user engagement double. Instant apps may have the same effect.
Developers interested in learning more can visit g.com/InstantApps.