Android apps: Now Google will let you try before you install

Google rolls out a host of features to boost the appeal of Play Store app subscriptions.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty Images

Google is now doing more to promote Android Instant apps, which allow users to use the key features of an app without actually installing it.

Instant Apps allow developers to distribute their Android apps from a link shared via a message, search or social media, offering a halfway point between native apps and the mobile web.

The New York Times Crossword puzzle Instant App, for example, lets users play a part of the app called the daily mini crossword puzzle. This serves as an onramp to gaining new subscribers. It claims to have more than doubled the number of sessions since supporting Instant Apps, boosting its chances of converting users into subscribers.

Google lists a handful of apps that support Instant Apps, including Skyscanner, NYTimes crossword puzzle, Buzfeed, Onefootball, Red Bull TV, and the UN's ShareTheMeal app. These apps now also have a "Try it Now" button on their store listings to let Android users know the feature is available.

It's still early days for Instant Apps, which Google unveiled at last year's I/O and set live in a pilot this January.

Google has also announced a big change to the cut it takes from app subscriptions through the Play Store, halving the fee from 30 percent to 15 percent once a developer has retained the subscriber for longer than 12 months.

The new fee structure will commence on January 1, 2018, and matches the offer Apple revealed last year in an interview with The Verge. The change offered an incentive for developers to move from one-off purchases to a subscription model, as well as lessening the motivation for existing subscription-based apps, such as Spotify, to sign up users outside of the app store.

Google is also enabling a few more subscription focused features for developers, including shorter free trials of at least three days that Google ensures are limited to one trial per user. It's also offering to notify developers when a user cancels a subscription, and the ability to block access to a service until a payment renewal issue is resolved.

The company may also do more to clean up poorly performing apps in the Play Store with a new "minimum functionality" policy that bans apps that "crash, force close, freeze, or otherwise function abnormally" on the majority of Android devices.

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