The web as we know it, is evolving and is more omnipresent than ever. With 5 times as many shipments as PCs in Q2015, mobile devices (Smartphones and Tablets) have made web more accessible. Millions of apps have already been shipped for these mobile devices. These apps have been tailor made to suit touch enabled, smaller screen interactive experience. There are ~1.5 million and ~1.4 million mobile applications available today on PlayStore and App Store respectively.
While most of the content is games, even if the percentage of apps is say 10%, it is still a lot of apps.
PROBLEMS WHICH ARISE DUE TO STAGGERING NO OF APPS
- Apps are bloated and they take up space.
- Apps have several permissions that are needed to run. This means that users do not know what the apps are doing in the background.
- Updating is painful as apps need to be constantly updated with newer functionality or bug-fixes. Bloat adds further woes to this.
- Apps have lot of functionality that every user does not need and only needs a part of that functionality. But the user installs it anyway.
- Several apps are designed to run in background(Android), there-by causing battery drain and also take up memory, slowing your phone down.
THE NEW CONCEPT
Google has thought about these problems and has made available an early access program called Android Instant Apps. The concept is simple – An app does not have to be installed by the end-user. Portion (An Activity) of an app can be instantly downloaded on the fly from Play Store, without having to be installed. This solves all of the problems above, and at the same keeping the developers and end-users happy.
Now,How does a developer make an instant app and make it available?
He modifies his existing app with little code changes that isolate a particular functionality of the app and builds the app and uploads it to Playstore. He then makes a hyperlink available to users. When a user clicks on the link the Instant App is loaded from Playstore and he can immediately start interacting with it.
INSTANT APP BENEFITS FOR USERS AND DEVELOPERS
- For users of the app, they get better App experience, they do not have to worry about installing an app or updating it.
- For developers of the app, they can break-up their apps and make Instant apps with little change of their existing code. Same app on PlayStore can serve as an installable app as well. This saves deployment headaches and version management issues. Developers also can tightly integrate some native features of the Android platform, like NFC, sensors and payments that are otherwise not directly possible through a web browser.
How about security? How secure are they?
Google has created a virtual sandbox in which these apps can run, there-by limiting what the app can only do. As this technology is still in early access program, documentation is limited and given Google’s track record, it is suffice to say that Google will take security very seriously.
While what an instant app can access from sandbox is limited, there are several applications that can benefit from it.
1) Shopping apps. A hyperlink can land the user directly to an item from where the user can purchase the item with Google Play.
2) Loyalty apps. With NFC, a user can simply swipe his phone at the billing desk to be instantly presented with the bill and loyalty points.
3) A shopping mall can display say a car product and an user swiping the NFC terminal there, can be shown product information in detail, along with complete feature detail.
4) Bill Payment. Your mobile bill can be instantly paid by clicking on the Pay Bill link, via Google Play Store.
5) Insurance Premium. Premium payment can be made easy and seamless.
Android Instant App is work in progress and is in Early Access for limited number of developers. Google will make this technology available next year(2017). Do you have an idea for an Android Instant app that you would like to share? Feel free to write to us or contact us at [email protected]
In Part-II we will discuss more in detail, once the Android Instant Apps SDK is released to general public.
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