Android Instant Apps seeing limited launch today, will open up further over time

After learning about Google's new "Android Instant Apps" initiative back at Google I/O 2016, they are finally ready for live trials in the real world. Google has worked with Android developers at BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope, and Viki to make the first Android Instant apps.

When an app is designed to be an Android Instant App, it lets users download and run specific parts of it without downloading and installing a complete APK file. For example, when tapping on a result in Google search, that link could load you into what looks like a complete native app to perform whatever basic functions you're looking for. With a couple more taps, the rest of the app can be downloaded in the background and installed for full functionality.

Android Instant Apps is a huge deal, but only once it's fully available.

Not only does this dramatically improve the on-boarding process of grabbing new users quickly, bypassing the usual barrier of downloading a large file and waiting for installation, but it also helps free up space on your phone when you only need small portions of an app for a single task.

Unfortunately for eager developers, Android Instant Apps is only launching as a trial with the aforementioned apps right now while Google collects user feedback to see how the product works in the real world. Developers can get ready for the launch of Android Instant Apps by modularizing their app into easy-to-use components and taking a few preemptive steps, but the full SDK won't be available for a few more months.

On the user side, you won't really notice much — and that's kind of the idea. When following links that would normally send you either to a simplified mobile page or directly to the Play Store for an app, you may now see this simplified Android app interface instead — that's when you know you're using an Instant App. There's an easy user interface flow to download the complete app, or just back out when you're done with your first task.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.