Since its announcement last week, Google’s Instant Apps has caused not a small amount buzz. Partly because it was something very new. And because it is not so futuristic. Instant apps is likely going to make its debut in the next update of Google OS, Android N. In simple terms, with Instant Apps, Android phones don’t need to download apps before they can be used on smartphones. Instead of the whole app, the Android OS would download just enough parts or codes of the app that is necessary to fully run the app on the smartphone.
This is a marriage of convenience between apps and the web. The only way this can work is if one is online with good internet connection. The advantages of Instant Apps are immediately apparent. Phone memory or storage doesn’t matter anymore. You can run as many apps as you want since most of the apps won’t be on your phone. Secondly, since the app is mostly cloud based, developers of apps can easily share an app’s data with users without waiting for them to download it. This could to help developers in getting more users for their apps.
Instant apps is the end product of several years of brainstorming by developers and Google. The question on the minds of techies was how to merge the convenience and freedom of the web with the seamless and fast ways apps work on smartphones. On the one hand is the internet where people can do almost anything with the resources freely available. All they need to do this is a good Internet connection where they live. Apps on the other hand, run on smartphones that recently got smarter, faster, with huge storage and memory capacity. Finding a way to integrate the two systems felt like a challenge that needed to happen fast.
Instant apps would actually work like a web page. But at the same time, it is still a native app on the phone. It is all about being able to share things on the web easily using a URL. Clicking on the link would therefore open and run the app on your smartphone. Again, only the parts necessary to run the app would be downloaded to ones phone. The bulk of the API is still in the clouds. Installation of apps suddenly became obsolete. Does that mean the end of apps as we know them? Yes is the simple answer. However, there is no reason why native apps and instant apps can’t coexist. In the short run of course. Ultimately, there is reason to believe that with further developments of the Instant apps, native apps would die a natural death.
To get to this point, Google and other tech firms have long being trying to bridge the gap between the Internet and native apps. For instance, progressive web apps was announced last year by Google. These apps are just like normal websites in the browser, but have some distinct advantages. They can work offline; which means they can be installed on phones. Other desirable features of progressive web apps include the fact that they can run on multiple devices, and securely save users’ data. Some large sites like Flipkart, have already moved their services to a progressive web apps taking advantage of the aforementioned features. The idea is gaining ground though a bit too slow for Google. This is in large part due to the fact that many browsers don’t support the technology yet; webmasters need to redesign websites to become compatible with the technology and for now, native apps perform better when it comes to running huge apps.
Another similar technology to instant apps are streaming apps that can run directly from the clouds. Two of the biggest tech giants, Google and Apple, have both released support for apps that are based on this technology. No need to download anything. For Google, the streaming service can show previews of the app in search results for some apps with fast WiFi connection. One can also get to experience how the app works too.
In a way, there is nothing actually new about instant apps. In one way or the other, they have always being around. What is changing now is the complete merging of web and native apps on our smartphones. With instant apps, the future looks like this: the dividing line between web apps and offline lines will be non-existent.
photo credit: techaeris.com; forbes.com