Android Instant Apps vs Progressive Web Apps: The Opportunity, Challenges and Future Ahead  


In Google I/O 2016 Instant Apps came as a breakthrough and in the previous year, we had progressive web apps. Google positively endorsed both in the same event making us wonder whether both are complementing to each other or contesting. In the months followed we came to the promises made by these alternatives for web and mobile app user experience.

Both instant apps and progressive apps aim to allow users native user experience through a web or app interface. While following apps enable users to access a web page features like a native app, instant apps allow users to see and work on an app instantly for specific needs without requiring downloading an app. While the first offers the app like the ease of use through web browsers, the other solution provides instant access and helps saving precious device storage space. As Google has been the torch bearer of both of these technologies, Android app development companies can garner significant benefits through them.

Android instant apps

What are Android Instant Apps? 

To be precise, Instant Apps are defined as apps that offer instant usability and native app functionality to the user without downloading the app. Talking of instant apps, we are referring to Android platform since Google unveils it and still now it did not receive any welcome message from iOS platform.

What is the impact of it? Though still, we could not assess the real impact of instant apps on the app marketplace, as far as user experience is concerned the impact is likely to be enormous. Just think of the huge convenience of using an app without needing to download it. How many times just because of a shortage of device storage you thought of dumping a few favourite apps only to make way for the new and required one? Often we need to download certain apps just for a particular purpose, and in such times instant apps can rescue us from the obligation of downloading a new app.

Android progressive apps

Android following apps were conceived with a similar revolutionary concept. As the mobile web is continuing to become stronger and feature rich, many web services can easily be accessed through browsers alone and by doing so we avoid downloading the corresponding app. But such web pages however user optimised they are, do not always behave as good as a native app. So, what happens if your frequently accessed website offers native app functions and features?

Well, such a website or web page that progressively with use offers a native app interface is referred as the progressive app. It would offer users native app features like notifications, offline access.

At present, it is only supported by Chrome and Windows browsers and remained unsupported in Apple’s Safari. Naturally, this new horizon of web app development has remained almost exclusive for Android.

What is the impact of progressive apps for Android users? Well, the real impact of progressive apps is about creating a more favourable mobile web in comparison to the mobile app marketplace. With continuous app made possible, you do not need to worry about app discoverability since your regular web visitors and users are enough to gain traction. On the one hand, they do not need to download a dedicated app spending their precious storage space, on the other hand, the web page can easily be pinned on the screen just to use it as native apps whenever you need to access. Most of the on-page contents can easily be accessed offline.

The key advantages

The convenience of accessing contents and functionalities without downloading an app is the core advantage of both of these technologies.

Instant apps will pave the way for more downloads since immediate use will give users a quick idea of the app. As the users are getting an immediate feel without downloading it, they try many apps just to decide. This will help developers showcase their app better in a small and instant app. It will contribute to discovering an app quicker. Creating an instant app also does not involve any complicated maneuver as developers need to build an instant layer on it.

Progressive web apps will help web experience evolve with rich native experience. Web developers now can infuse apps like features and design elements for frequent users and ensure more traction. Progressive web apps are widely considered as the future of mobile apps just because it replaces dedicated mobile apps with a more powerful and native web experience.

The challenges

The convenience, ease and usability apart, both the technologies have their own limitations at present. The progressive web apps are still being experimented with and how far native experience can be ensured with the web is still not known. On the other hand, the real scope of adopting instant apps is still limited.

For large enterprises replacing mobile apps with progressive web apps is still not a viable choice as most brands are still focused to concentrate on two separate fronts, respectively as mobile apps and responsive website.

For ensuring full length user experience instant apps can be very limited Google only regulates 4MB of space for them. This also makes user engagement challenging as the app is not available in its totality. Similarly, progressive web apps except offering notification and offline access is still not apt to access all device features just like the native apps.

The future ahead

To tell about the future of these new ways of rendering mobile apps, we must refer to the evolution in web and mobile apps throughout these years. Mobile web continued to become stronger with faster and feature rich mobile browsers, ease of accessing native device features and to a some extent, accessibility of contents offline. As the mobile web is becoming stronger, we can expect the web experience to be richer with better offline access and more device optimised features.

Similarly instant apps will play an important role in marketing apps by allowing users to experience an app quickly. By creating an instant layer over their apps developers would like to tap on the potential of easy discoverability and traction.

Author bio:

Juned Ghanchi is the co-founder and CMO at IndianAppDevelopers, an Android app development company specializing in real time and game based application development. Juned is responsible for developing company brand promotion strategy.