Last week Google announced that it was starting limited testing of Instant Apps. The concept was first introduced at Google I/O in May 2016, inspiring a discussion among web and app marketing specialists, developers, and App Store Optimisation professionals.
What are Instant Apps?
Have you ever wished you could run an app without having to use the Google Play Store to install it? Well, Android Instant Apps will soon allow you to do this – all you need to do is tap on a link, which, instead of directing you to a website, will take you to a specific place in an app (whether or not you have it installed on your phone). So basically, you will be able to temporarily load an app for a single use.
How does it work? Native Android apps will become modularised by developers to allow users to access specific parts of their content, so only the necessary code will be downloaded on the fly. Instant Apps will be opened via links (these can come from Google search results, other apps, websites, be sent by email, text, and so on). If you decide you want to get the whole app, you will be also able to download the whole build by clicking on a button within the Instant App.
What problem is Google trying to solve?
Here are some possible benefits of Instant Apps:
- For users – to facilitate and speed up access to apps by removing the friction caused by the current download process (users will not need to enter the Google Play Store and install the entire app)
- For developers – publishers may potentially count on higher usage rates after the download barrier is removed. The current user conversion, acquisition and retention patterns will inevitably be altered. Transactional apps with less frequent use and lower time spend (those which are used to perform a specific task, like ride sharing or currency converter apps), will gain the most
- For Google – more revenue. To understand why the tech giant is eager to introduce Instant Apps, it’s important to remember two things: that it is a search-first company, and that 90% of its revenue comes from advertising (mainly search ads and ads on third-party websites). At the same time, users are increasingly turning to mobile in everyday use and apps are still by far the preferred way to interact on smartphones (87% of time is spent in apps compared to 13% spent on the web). The number of unique visitors for mobile web has increased dramatically over the past 3 years however (+82% in the US since 2014), but users tend to stay on websites for much shorter sessions than in apps:
For Google, Instant apps are an attempt to blur the lines between apps and the mobile web and to ultimately get more people to use the web on mobile (this is part of a wider tactic by Google, as efforts to promote of Deep Linking and Progressive Web Apps show). The new technology will be compatible with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and higher – allowing Google to reach to 97% (over 1 billion) of Android users.
Will it work?
Here are some of the success factors for Instant Apps:
- Security issues
- Storage space needed to temporarily download a module of the app
- Data usage
- Loading times (dependent on network speed)
- Developer adoption and implementation – how complicated or lengthy will the full preparation process be?
- Evolution of mobile web design (increased responsiveness, speed and offline access)
- Other possible disruptions – new technologies developed by Apple, Facebook or even start-ups
What if it works?
If Instant Apps prove to be a success, a major shift may occur in how users interact on mobile devices (but only those with the Android OS for the time being). Apple is earning billions in App Store revenue, so a move towards the post-app era is not something they will be happy about, unless they have something better up their sleeve.
From an App Store Optimisation perspective, the role of deep linking will further increase, with a possible decrease in the number of downloads in the Google Play store and the potential emergence of new discovery channels (Google search, Maps, Assistant and more):
Source: App Annie
Instant Apps should be available to a wider audience before the end of Q2 of this year. Developers and app marketers should already start thinking about what changes in app promotion this new technology will entail.
Author: Agata Jajszczyk
Adapt Worldwide is a multilingual digital agency focused on helping clients attain growth at home and abroad. Our ASO offer includes multilingual market localisation, keyword research & analysis, description optimisation, screenshot creation, online PR and much more.