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Lure in your users with Instant Apps. Why? Let’s talk about it.

By Nathalie Simons

Since they were first announced at Google I/O in 2016, Instant Apps have been an intriguing but not exactly a widely known feature of the Android OS. It’s a shame that it’s not being talked about more, especially when it has so much potential to change how people interact with their phones and use apps on a daily basis. For those who missed the memo entirely, Instant Apps are essentially small apps that can be downloaded and used without having to install the app on your device.

For users, the experience of using an Instant App is more seamless as installation isn’t required. With one click, they can start using specific app features almost instantly, without taking up a lot of space on their device. Users can download a feature of an existing app on the Play Store as an Instant App, and can easily install the full version within the Instant App if desired.

What are Instant Apps? How do they work?

Instant Apps aren’t completely different types of apps, in fact they are traditional Android apps, but the codebase is segmented into smaller modules to allow the Android OS to download features as needed. Meaning most Instant Apps are created in a single codebase with installable and Instant App components. However, if the app is architected and implemented correctly, an installable app can be entirely instant. Each of these modules are mapped out to the main app via deep linking, a feature which has existed in mobile apps for years.

Essentially, deep links are what users click on to launch Instant Apps; they are web urls that download and route directly into specific parts of an app. An Instant App functions the same way as its native app equivalent, without actually installing it on the device. As you can imagine, the experience will become a lot more seamless for Android app users. As they browse the web and see a link to ‘Shop here’ or ‘Play this game”, they can click on the link to quickly launch the Instant App if it’s available. The user can instantly start using the app feature, as if it was just opening a new web page. A trip to the Play Store is not required.

In order for users to use the Instant App, users will need to enable it on their Android phones. Users can download a single feature or a multi-feature Instant App. Once a user downloads one module it has the capability of interacting with other modules that users decide to download, enabling users to expand the app however they like. Instant Apps are much more customizable for users.

What Instant Apps are in the market right now? The list is short, but some examples include NYTimes Crosswords, Vimeo, and Jet.

How do I build an Instant App?

Building Instant Apps can be a bit tricky, especially converting existing app features to Instant App features. It’s tricky, but not impossible. As explained before, Instant Apps are basically a set of code modules that all depend on one base module. The main challenges in making Instant Apps are usually related to creating a proper app architecture. It’s important to correctly architect each module, typically each app feature, so that it’s independent of other feature modules, while keeping the Instant App within the allowable app size.

As a rule, the total feature size of each module cannot extend over 4MB, meaning the base module coupled with the feature module cannot exceed 4MB. This size stipulation also extends to each downloaded module. In addition to this, Instant Apps need to have an https deep linking setup. In order for the Instant App to publish, it has to be registered to the app publisher and verified by Google.

Why you should consider creating Instant Apps.

Instant Apps allow users to try features of an app before committing to fully installing it on their device. App creators will see a decline in immediate app drop-offs or uninstalls as users will be more likely to keep the apps they download after getting a taste of it through the Instant App.

Another scenario where Instant Apps come in handy is for quick one-time uses. Imagine you’re in line at a counter and realize you can pay via the store’s app, would you rather download the entire app, or follow a link to order and pay with Android Pay through an Instant App? I know I’d pick the latter.

Instant Apps make all these use cases possible, and more. The idea of cluttering your device with apps that you only use for one or two features seems tedious and almost illogical for both the user and the app creator. App creators and brands now understand that app downloads don’t mean much if the user isn’t committed to keeping the app for more than five minutes. In fact, users are less likely to re-install an app that they had uninstalled in the past. Instant Apps lets users declutter their phones, keeping only the apps they’re committed to, while also letting app creators retain more engaged users.

Nathalie was born in Suriname and raised in Trinidad. Growing up, Nathalie was a creator interested in building physical products. Her love for creation and architecture quickly led her down a path to creating digital products. Now a Lead Engineer at TribalScale, Nathalie has the pleasure of building products that are experienced by millions of users.

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