Hey All, I am writing this blog because I came across a very interesting topic known as Instant apps. After doing some research I realized that not many people know about this feature in Android. So, what are Instant Apps?? I’ll explain.

Instant Apps are Android apps which can run without installation. Yeah, That’s right!! Without installation. I too was confused at first, but I did some digging and found this to be a very interesting and useful topic to share.

Now I’ll tell you 10 things about Instant Apps.

1. Like the name suggests, Instant Apps are Android applications which can instantly run on a smartphone without any installation required. That means we save memory and downloading time. We just have to click on the provided URL and the user can enjoy the rich native experience.

Since the app can be accessed through URL, the access has become very easy. For example, URLs can be shared while chatting with friends or we may just as easily find them in google search results.

2. When we use android apps by downloading the APK, we can enter into the app only through the main screen or the first screen in the app, however, this is not the case with instant apps. With instant apps, we can directly view any screens provided in the app without having to view the first screen. We (the developer) can split the app into different modules and can assign a URL to each of them. In that way, the user can access any module they want.

3. Instant apps are not that different from the installable apps. They use the same package name, icons and code base. We can say that instant apps are a module of our existing app. They provide the same experience that we can get from the installable apps.

4. We all know that when regular installable apps go through the installation process, they get access to different device features like location or camera. But since instant apps are launched through URL, they do not follow any installation process so the runtime permissions API has to be used for accessing permissions like camera and locations etc.

5. To let the user have smooth flawless experience using instant apps, they should be as small as possible. To be clear, the app size should not be greater than 4MB. However, when the instant app is running, there is no limit to the amount of data which can be saved in the memory.

6. Development Tools.

Instant Apps img 1

Here are a few steps to get started with instant apps.
1. Install Android Studio 3.0 or above
2. Install instant apps SDK from the SDK manager
3. Click on App Links Assistant. It is located at Tools->App Links Assistant. This is used for generating URLs for our instant apps.

Instant Apps img 2

7. Sometimes we see a new app in the Play store, we hesitate to install it. We may ask ourselves questions like:” Do we need this app?”, “Do I have enough storage space for this app?” etc. Instant apps remove all such apprehensions.

When an instant app is uploaded to the Play store we will see a “Try Now” button near the install button. When clicked this button, the user is taken directly into the app without going through the process of installing the app. After using the app and pressing back button the app is and will not be shown on the phone.

This increases the amount of app installs that a developer has.

8. I had mentioned earlier that APKs with 4 MB or less only can be used in building Instant Apps. This may prove to be difficult for many developers. So, Google created a google play core library which can be used to download the extra features at runtime. With the help of this library, the instant app can stay at 4 MB but extra features which are less than 10 MB can be downloaded to the Android device.

Instant Apps img 3

9. Now, for those who need at least 10 MB for their APKs don’t have to worry either. Google started a new Beta program known as the 10 MB beta program, where the developers must answer a simple questionnaire before applying for the beta program. With this questionnaire, Google will decide if it is really difficult to reduce the app size to 4 MB and they will let you in the beta program accordingly.

10. For all those game developers out there, Instant apps are a good way to show off your games to the users without having them download it. We can save the progress of the game by using sessions or any storage APIs so that the users won’t lose their hard-earned gains when they exit the app. We can also provide an “Install Now” button inside the app so that the users can choose to install the app if they are interested.

I would like to conclude by saying that using apps without installation not only saves the storage space and mobile data but also opens new possibilities in the development world and we will be able to reach new milestones using this technology.

 - Benedict Thomas