Instant Apps and the State of Mobile Web
What will our interface be next?
So I took a look a look at MKBHD’s recap of Google IO and thought Instant Apps were the most interesting. It is a way to use mobile-optimized apps without downloading it. This can be useful for, say, times when you need a good interface of a rarely-used app, but don’t want to keep it on your phone. It’s a great technology, but that got me thinking: what will the state of mobile web be like soon?
When looking at the types of devices we currently have today, there’s desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and head mounted displays (think Microsoft HoloLens). In the future, however, will we be able to access the Internet with a portable device while having the visual equivalent of a large screen TV? I can see this working for HoloLens if it had long battery life and was comfortable to wear all day, so this eliminates the need for mobile phones — and ultimately the mobile-optimized web.
But here’s the catch: cellular data plans are still expensive (except companies like Republic Wireless and Ting, which is still expensive for many people). So a full desktop page will usually use more data than mobile-optimized web apps/pages. Not everyone can afford a generous amount of data. If we have a way to compress or optimize desktop-sized web pages, this problem would be alleviated, but not disappear. Of course, most companies don’t have a mobile web page, much less an app, so there’s a separate problem.
Back in 2011 when I entered college, I wanted to be a web developer. I wanted to make web apps that would work and behave on par with native apps. Today, I still believe in a way to do that. By loading only parts of a webpage and keeping the overall structure, there would be less data transfer. There would be no need to pay for expensive App Store license (although they keep things relatively safe for users. New article, anyone?) and no need for worrying about running out of local storage. The mobile browser and other interface can hide away should the web app operate better.
But of course, the downside is the need for constant data connection, combined with high cellular data prices. So I can see the solution working for everything except offline services. This means games and maps (when out in the middle of nature), among other things.
When Mozilla’s Firefox OS came out, I hoped it to change everything. Sadly, it didn’t make much of an impact, and I heard it was horribly slow and clunky. 😕 Maybe, I thought, apps are the way.
What Is the Future?
So going back to Instant Apps. I see it filling a lot of holes. I’m excited to use it because apps are everywhere on my phone. But developers still need to make native apps. Sometimes a simple webpage is better than flooding the App/Play Store with webpages.
However, if we keep making apps and mobile-optimized web pages, what will happen when a new, more convenient technology comes out? Will we still use mobile-optimized anything? Developers for that specialized class of devices would be rushing to make apps obsolete to keep up with new demands.