Google has launched the first set of Instant Apps, allowing Android users to launch key components of select apps without having to download the full program.
The "limited test" is kicking off with BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope, and Viki, introducing the hybrid web and app experience that Google previewed with developers at I/O last year.
Instant Apps aim to help users complete tasks more quickly. For example, a user of a mobile site can get the experience of its shopping cart without having to install the entire app.
Instant Apps have been modularized so that only the relevant activity of the app is downloaded after the user taps an Instant App URL. Instant Apps can't do background notifications or push notifications and need to be files under 4MB in size. Once the app is closed, it vanishes from the device.
Google hopes to collect feedback from the public before making further changes to the experience and expanding availability to more apps and users.
Google sees Instant Apps being beneficial both to developers and end-users, particularly around improving mobile payments, commerce, and app discovery.
Rather than require users go to Google Play to install an app, developers and brands share an Instant App URL that, for example, takes the user to the shopping cart page, a video player or other components of their mobile app.
It could provide end users with a better experience than the mobile website, and may encourage them to install the full app, while offering developers a different way to expose their apps than a high ranking a crowded app store.
Brands could also offer single-use versions of their app that launch after tapping an NFC chip in, for example, the case of a parking meter app that users may not wish to have permanently installed.
Instant Apps are built on Google Play Services, which supports location, identity, payments, and Google's Firebase analytics and works on older versions of Android down to Jelly Bean, released in 2012.
Google said the first Instant Apps would appear later in 2016, so it's running slightly behind schedule. Developers still need to apply to access the SDK. However, Google noted that the full SDK will be available in coming months.