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With Android O, you may never have to download another app again

Google just opened up its Instant Apps feature to every developer.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy | Team leadership | Audience engagement | Tips and FAQs | iPhone | Samsung | Android | iOS
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read
Juan Garzón / CNET
Watch this: Go from Google Search straight into an app

It's been a year since we first heard about Instant Apps, a neat-sounding feature that launches a slice of an app you don't have, instead of making you download the entire thing from the Play Store. Consider it App Light. Diet App.

Now, Google is making Instant Apps a much bigger part of the Android OS -- and it's opening up the platform to all developers.

That means pretty soon there will be a flood of mini apps that you can interact with, without ever downloading or installing a single one.

You will save time, you will save space on your device and you will save the headache of having to wrangle a mobile site. You get the visually rich, mobile-optimized package instead.

When you click a search result or a link, Android O will fire up a nice, rich app-like environment that makes it easy to read and share an article, or buy that thing on that site.

Best yet, Instant Apps will integrate directly into your launcher, so you can search for an app, and find it right there (it's part of the Google Play Store search results). The New York Times crossword puzzle is a perfect example of an Instant App.

If you want to keep an Instant App around, just save the icon to your home screen. It'll also surface in your Recent apps.

Instant Apps will work with older versions of Android, but Google says it gets better in O. File sizes will be smaller, which will make Instant Apps load faster than they've done up to this point in beta with the 40 or so developers that have had access so far.

There are limitations, though, for sure. Like any full-blown app, an Instant App can do everything the developer programs, and no more. But like in-app purchases, the developer can also prompt you to download the complete app, if you aren't moved to download it yourself.

The beauty of Instant Apps is, you might not ever want to.

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