The best feature announced at Google I/O last year — and honestly, one of a few genuinely new improvements baked into Android in the last year — was Instant Apps, the capability for Android phones to download and run Android apps on the fly, without needing a specific install.
According to a post on the Google Developers Blog, a limited test of Instant Apps is starting for all users today. Apps including Buzzfeed, Periscope and Viki can all be downloaded for users on the fly. The way it works is that you’ll click a normal link to view some kind of content. Rather than taking you to a webpage, it will instantly load a “module” of a relevant app to display content.
For example, if you click through to a Buzzfeed page through a Google search result, it might take you to a module of the Buzzfeed app to take a quiz on why millenials are the absolute worst, rather than the web version. Google’s hoping that Instant Apps will let developers and designers fully utilize the powers of an Android phone, rather than being limited by the capabilities of the mobile web.
Right now, there aren’t too many examples of how this tech is going to change smartphone usage, but it could end up being a big deal in the future. As virtual reality and augmented reality grow, content will require using more of your smartphone’s sensors and power, which requires more than just a webpage. Google’s hoping that Instant Apps — and, by extension, Android itself — will be the answer.
The limited trial is rolling out for select apps and all users using the latest version of Android right now. Some software features are open to all developers now, with the full SDK promised to roll out to devs over the coming months.