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  • Google I/O 2016: Android's Instant Apps seek to solve a key mobile problem

    Boy! Way to completely miss the point of Instant Apps!!

    It's not to solve the fragmentation problem.  WTF? There is, for the most part, no OS fragmentation for developers. When I write an Android app, I don't write a million versions for a million devices. I write one app with 4 sets of resources for 4 screen sizes and depending on whether I'm targeting tablets or not, a few layouts in XML. And using the Support Library, I can write apps that go all the way back to Froyo (I think) - but I just typically go back to Lollipop (which gives me 63% of users). Nobody's asked me for an older version. If that had, I'll just set min version to Kitkat which gives me 95% of the devices. So to sum up, from my perspective as a developer, fragmentation is a non issue.

    However, from my perspective as a consumer, fragmentation is indeed a problem for Android. Consumers don't get OS updates and Security updates in time. However, with Play Services, they still get large swathes of what is traditionally considered as OS updates. Still that's not good enough. And IMO, this is just about the only area where Apple's totally nailed it - and from Day 1.

    So what's the advantage of Instant Apps? I'm not sure how big of an impact it will be and how many developers are going to take advantage of it. Time will tell. But the intent is twofold. First is Discovery. If you are browsing and you come across something interesting and go to the organization's web page, you may find that they have a app(let) that you could use right away. Without having to go into the Play Store and installing the app on the phone, you could try out the functionality by simply clicking a button and the app running instantaneously on your phone. It's never installed and like a web page, once you exit it, it's gone from the phone. That's the second advantage. If you don't want to clutter up your phone with a bunch of apps that you use infrequently, this is a good way to get the best of both worlds.

    Last week, I wanted to view the Sqlite database of an app I'm building and I went to the Play Store and downloaded 6 apps to try them out. With Instant Apps, it would have been a much faster process, limiting the amount of time I spent evaluating them. That's not one of Google's use cases. But it would be useful, if it happened - even from the Play Store.