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Google I/O 2016: Instant Apps for Android without the Download

One of many announcements at yesterday’s Google I/O event was that it will soon be possible to use Android apps from the Play Store without fully downloading them. The new feature is called Instant Apps.

Instant Apps means that rather than installing storage-hungry software onto your Android device, when all you really need is a single use of an app, you can instead click a link and just download the necessary bits (or modular components). It’s basically a kind of web-based apps or a seamless streaming apps system.

So for example, if you just want to perform a task quickly – perhaps make an NFC payment, watch a single video on YouTube or view directions on Maps, but don’t want the app on your smartphone long-term, in theory you should just be able to pop out your phone, load the content at a touch of the screen, make the payment / watch the video / view the map you want and then close the link with minimal megabytes of storage taken up, no trace of the app on your gadget and no strings attached.

Of course, if you’re satisfied with your web-based experience you can then choose to fully install it at a later occasion which Google would probably like. We’d like to think of it as a try-before-you-buy or library experience, and is also good for the fact that fully installed apps often require regular updating to maintain them which can be costly when feeding off your mobile data bill (we’re looking at you Facebook) – this won’t happen if you don’t have the app installed (or you can of course cancel the updates if you know how).

In current form Google Instant Apps will allow just 4MB of content to be used per browse through selected apps on the Play Store on devices running Android 4.4 KitKat or above. The plan is to expand the data allowance and extend Instant Apps’ compatibility to also include devices running Android 4.1 Jellybean. So far so good and the demonstrations at Google I/O look really promising for when Instant Apps gets a full public release later in the year.