Android Instant Apps explained

Martin Brinkmann
May 19, 2016
Updated • May 22, 2018
Google Android

Google's been busy yesterday showcasing new features and products on the company's I/O Conference.

Next to the two messaging applications Allo and Duo, and first information about Android N, the next version of Android, was an interesting new concept called Android Instant Apps.

The motivation behind the new feature was to find a way to make applications easier and quicker to access on Android devices.

Google compares this to websites which you can access with just a tap or click on a link in your web browser of choice, and that it wants the same experience for apps on Android devices.

Android Instant Apps

android instant apps

Android Instant Apps takes the concept and runs with it. Basically, what happens is that a light version of an app is downloaded and executed when Android Instant Apps is supported by a service that is being used.

Say, you click on a link on Google Search that takes you to an online store that has an Android app supporting Android Instant Apps as well.

Instead of rendering the store page in the web browser, Android will either load the service's app if it is installed already, or download a lite version of it to the device that is used only for that occasion but not installed on the device.

Downloads are limited to a maximum of 4 Megabytes for apps in this case, and users get the same experience that the application provides without installing it. In fact, the downloaded application is removed from the system afterwards again.

That's not to say that you cannot install the app afterwards as the option may be provided by the developer of the application. Android Instant Apps does work with links but also NFC.

Google notes that it takes little development time to update existing applications to include Android Instant Apps functionality, but that the feature is limited currently to select partners.

Android users will get the feature later this year, and it won't be limited to Android N but compatible with all versions of Android starting with Jelly Bean 4.1.

Developers benefit from the feature as it exposes their application to more users, and users may benefit from it as it allows them to use part of an application without installing it which can be very useful for one-use type of applications.

It is unclear right now whether controls will be provided to turn the feature off completely, or for individual sites and services.

I can imagine that it could be very frustrating if a site you visit regularly pushes the Android Instant Application to your device each time you load it even if you don't want to use the application.

There are plenty of reasons why you may not want to use an application this way: bandwidth, permissions and functionality are probably the core ones.

Additionally, it may confuse users initially when an application opens automatically that they have not installed.

Closing Words

Android Instant Apps could push users deeper into the Android ecosystem by making them use apps instead of web pages.

The verdict is still out whether the feature will be more useful than annoying, or vice versa.

Now You: What's your take on Android Instant Apps?

Android Instant Apps explained
Article Name
Android Instant Apps explained
Android Instant Apps is a new feature of Android 4.1 and newer devices that delivers a light version of an app to Android users when they click on links.
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  1. Albert said on August 18, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the tip Martin.

    It is for these kinds of posts that I follow GHacks.

    1. Mike Williams said on August 26, 2023 at 8:55 pm

      What’s up with the generic comment, are you a bot?

  2. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:23 pm


    Where on the planet is that still in use? I was forced to give up using my RAZRV3 years ago because 2G was phased out by AT&T.

    1. arbuz said on August 20, 2023 at 5:02 pm

      Everywhere 3G has been turned off and you don’t have LTE coverage, and believe me there are many developed countries where this is the case and if it weren’t for 2G you wouldn’t even be able to make a phone call.

    2. Doc Fuddled said on August 31, 2023 at 5:55 pm

      Maybe I missed it, but I don’t believe tha term “2G” is in the article. Perhaps you are referring to “AGM G2”??

  3. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:27 pm


    Your website has gone insane.

    When I the post button I then saw my comment posted on a different article page. When I opened this article again, it is here.

    1. Martin P. said on August 31, 2023 at 4:39 pm

      @Tachy @Martin Brinkmann

      ” Your website has gone insane. ”

      Same here. Has happened several times.

      1. owl said on September 1, 2023 at 3:42 am

        @Martin P.,

        For over two weeks now,
        I’ve been seeing “Comments” posted by subscribers appearing in different, unrelated articles.
        For the time being,
        it would be better to specify the “article name and URL” at the beginning of the post.

  4. Anonymous said on August 18, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    @tachy a lot of non-phone devices with a sim in them rely on 2G, at least here in europe.
    Usually things reporting usage or errors/alarms on something remote that does not get day to day inspection in person. They are out there in vast numbers doing important work. Reliable, good range. The low datarate is no problem at all in those cases.
    3G is gone or on its last legs everywhere, but this stuff still has too much use to cancel.

    Anyhow, interesting that they would put that in. I can see the point if you suspect a hostile 2G environment (amateur eavesdroppers with laptop, ranging up to professional grade MITM fake towers while “strangely” not getting the stronger crypto voip 4G because it is being jammed, and back down to something as old ‘stingray’ devices fallen into the wrong hands).

    But does this also mean that they have handled and rolled out a fix for that nasty 4G ‘pwn by broadcast’ problem you reported earlier this year? I had 4G disabled due to that, on the off chance that some of the local criminals would buy some cheap chinese gear, download a working exploit and probe every phone in range all over town in the hope of getting into phones of the police.

  5. Andy Prough said on August 19, 2023 at 3:04 am

    >”While most may never be attacked in stingrays, it is still recommended to disable 2G cellular connections, especially since it does not have any downsides.”

    The downside would be losing connectivity. I spend a lot of time way out in the countryside where there’s often no service or almost none. My network allows 2G, and I need it sometimes. I have an option on the phone to disable 2G, I may do that when I’m in the city and I have good 5G connectivity, but not out in the country.

    I would imagine that the stingray exploits, like most of the bad things in this world, are probably things you will run into in the crowded big cities.

  6. owl said on August 21, 2023 at 3:40 am

    I stopped using it in a mobile (Wi-Fi line) environment, so I’m almost ignorant of the actual situation,
    But the recent reality in Japan makes me realize that “the infrastructure of the web is nothing more than a papier-mâché fiction”.

    It is already beyond the scope of what an individual can do.
    What we should be aware of is the reality that “governments and those in power want to control the world through the Web”, and efforts to counter (resist and prevent) such ambitions are necessary.

  7. Anonymous said on August 26, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    Why do you want people to disable the privacy features? Hmmmmm?

  8. Anonymous said on August 27, 2023 at 2:30 am

    Now You: do you plan to keep the Ads privacy features enabled?

    I’d like to tell you, but apparently if you make a post critical of Google, you get censored. * [Editor: removed, just try to bring your opinion across without attacking anyone]

  9. Tachy said on August 27, 2023 at 5:15 am


    You website is still psychotic. Comments attach to random stories.

  10. John G. said on August 28, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    @Martin please do fix the comments, it’s completely insane commenting here! :[

  11. ECJ said on August 28, 2023 at 5:37 pm


    The comments are seriously messed up on gHacks now. These comments are mixed with the article at the below URL.

    And comments on other articles are from as far back as 2010.

  12. Naimless said on August 29, 2023 at 12:57 am

    What does this article has anything to do with all the comments on this article? LOL I think this Websuite is ran by ChatGPT. every article is messed up. Some older comments from 2015 shown up in recant articles, LOL

  13. Paul Knight said on August 31, 2023 at 3:35 am

    The picture captioned “Clearing the Android Auto’s cache might resolve the issue” is from Apple Carplay ;)

  14. Anonymous said on August 31, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    How about other things that matter:
    Drop survival?
    Screen toughness?
    Degree of water and dust protection?

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