Android Instant Apps allows Android apps to run instantly, without requiring installation. Users will simply tap on a URL.

Developers will need to ensure their apps are 'modularized' and then will be able to offer this service to users on Jelly Bean OS or later.

Many have hailed this announcement from Google's recent I/O event as the most exciting. So what are the implications?

A game changer for NFC?

The whole debate around customer experience with iBeacons comes down to the app. Marketers can only target those with their app installed and the challenge is providing genuinely useful functionality that also happens to be interruptive.

So far, iBeacons haven't been a success. But in the world of Android, neither has NFC.

Yes, NFC has different use cases, downloading an app or launching a web page with customer intent (they need to tap). But problems still exist - the user has to trust the web experience will be seamless.

Implementations of NFC thus far haven't always been successful.

But one of the demonstrations of Instant Apps from Google is the parking meter shown below. The experience is started by NFC, which launches the Instant App, and allows a customer to pay for parking within a slick 'native' environment.

The implications for NFC could be dramatic, providing implementation is as smart as this example.

nfc launch app  

A gamechanger for payment?

One of the beauties of launching an Instant App is the ability for customers to pay via Android Pay.

This is part of what makes the example above (the parking meter) even more compelling. Payment details are already stored and checkout occurs quickly.

Allowing Android users to pay within apps they have never installed opens up a world of services. Think of the convenience in mobile commerce.

A gamechanger for app discovery?

No navigating the app store. No waiting for download then cancelling.

Metrics such as the percentage of downloaders still using the app after a set time period should improve because the user can preview the app and have more of an idea of whether they like it or not.

Most importantly though, the GIF below shows what a boon this will be to app discovery. The users will potentially do the job for you, sharing an Instant App link with friends via a social network or messaging app.

And, of course, the app creator can also promote in this way, sharing the link through email marketing, brand messaging, SMS etc.

messaging android app 

A gamechanger for UX? 

Apps are more immersive, use more smartphone functionality and are often more beautiful. The problem is that we can't be bothered with them.

According to Ofcom's recent media usage study, 42% never download new apps (see below).

Now that we might be bothered, using Instant Apps to access modular functionality, will the days of poor mobile experiences be forgotten.

And what will Tim Berners Lee think? Is this open web or not?

ofcom stats

A gamechanger for customer service?

I'm not entirely sure about this, but I needed a fifth point.

The messaging GIF above, what if that was an interaction with a brand (e.g. through Allo or Facebook Messenger)? The brand could use Instant App links to better serve customers.

For instance, a bank could offer a link to a loan calculator in-app. I can't think of too many examples of this, but it does seem like a possible improvement to cross-channel service, above and beyond deep linking. 

Ben Davis

Published 20 May, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

1231 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (3)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Nice feature, but it will be a couple of years before marketers can rely on Android Instant Apps, because currently 32% of Android users [or less, see below] have Jelly Bean 4.2 or better.

I rather suspect this 32% is an over-estimate, as this measures engaged Android owners who use Google PlayStore - not all those with a cheap Android device who stick with the built-in apps and never update their OS.

If these people are 42%, as you suggest above, and they are usually on the older version of Android that came with their phone, then the total percentage with Jelly Bean is about 20%

about 2 years ago

Jeremy Whitt

Jeremy Whitt, Management Consultant / Chief Marketing Officer at The Promethean Group

Well, I can appreciate the excitement and obvious benefits of Instant Apps, but there is a very important reason Apple / iOS hasn't embraced this entire category of thinking, and that is cyber-security.

I think most technology professionals will agree that the single most important and by far the most destructive and potentially soon to be the most expensive cost to enterprises as well as individuals is cyber-security breaches, viruses, and impersonations / identity theft.

And one of the top ways to trick folks, is to send them tainted links.

Remember, there are only two types of people on the planet, those who have been hacked and those that don't know they've already been hacked.

Apple religiously pumps the breaks on these seemingly brilliant innovations precisely because of their lack of control. Many will argue that stifles innovation. And yes, it does serve Apple's agenda better than others (Android/Windows). But what it also does is create a far better (not perfect) environment and ecosystem of security and barriers to entry for would-be hackers and nefarious blokes.

Hardly a mention in the entire "Instant Apps" release of how they will be secured, will there be a trusted clearing house, who is responsible if my Droid phone get's hijacked, and perhaps most importantly, who will educate the public on at least the basic cyber-security precautions one absolutely must take before tapping on random links willy-nilly?

Great idea... Poor execution.

And yes, the "app-store" concept is a joke with millions of apps, constant app updates, and the aforementioned "clunkiness" of the app-downloading UX.

I absolutely love the concept of instant apps and do believe it is certainly going to be the near future.

However, I believe the safer, better, and long-term solution lies in taking containerization (see Docker) to the next level with mobility. However, that will require a strategic commitment from either Google or Apple to re-imagine their applications-layer architecture. Should either of those beasts decide to acquire Docker, that would be the leading indicator of this revolution.

Unfortunately, I would be extremely cautious about this current implementation of instant apps as simply yet another fertile breading ground of more marketing noise and hacker havens.

Jeremy Whitt
The Promethean Group

about 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Pete, Jeremy, fantastic points and thanks for adding to the debate.

about 2 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.