The Small Google Announcement That's Actually Huge

GIF: Courtesy Google.
Google announced a lot of things today at the opening keynote of its annual developer conference, and most of them deserved some light clapping or head nodding. Google's answer to the Amazon Echo, cool cool. Google's answer to virtual assistants, cool cool. But one seemingly small update to the next version of Android, Android N, actually made me say, woah.

It's called Android Instant Apps, and here's how it works. Say your friend sends you a link via email. You know the website being linked to has its own mobile app — or maybe you don't — but at any rate, you don't have it downloaded on your phone. If you clicked that link right now, it'd send you to some clunky, likely non-phone-optimized website. I hate that.

With Android Instant Apps, that doesn't happen. Instead, when you click the link, your phone loads a limited version of the app. This way, you view the content the way that brand intended for you to view it on your phone. And then you're given the option to download the app if you want.

No more clicking a Yelp link, for example, and being taken to Yelp's website instead of its app. How cool is that? This is the sort of smart, subtle thing that makes the difference between a "good" phone experience, and a "great" one. And it's a fundamentally different way of thinking of links: The web is no longer king — apps are.

Unfortunately, Android Instant Apps isn't available yet, and when it is, it will only be on smartphones running Android N. But I hope other smartphone makers will follow Google's lead here.

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