We're at Google's 2016 I/O event, the annual showcase for some of its upcoming software innovations, and one of those innovations is Instant Apps for Android. Instant Apps let you download and use part of an app without permanently installing it, and there are a whole range of ways that could prove useful.
The apps Google showcased on stage here in Mountain View were for shopping and video. If you see something you like in a Google search, for example, you can tap through to the retailer's app and purchase it without installing anything; or you could check out a video embedded inside a mobile app without having to clutter up your phone with another download you're only going to use once.
From the live demo we saw, Instant Apps install part of an app's code and then remove it after you've finished. For all those times when you only use an app once – apps tied to a specific event or venue, or perhaps a link sent to you in a message – Instant Apps have the potential to save a lot of installing and uninstalling.
In some ways the Instant App approach replaces the experience of going to a mobile website to carry out the same kind of actions. You get all the benefits of a native app (a slicker interface and faster, often smoother, UI loading) without ending up with dozens of installed apps gathering virtual dust.
It's not going to be suitable for all apps and it's also going to require a bit of extra work on the part of developers, but users should see the benefit (and developers might end up with more users inside their apps one way or another). Only the code required to run the part of the app you need is downloaded to your device.
It also means plug-ins like Android Pay are embedded and ready to go, something that wouldn't necessarily be the case if you visited a mobile webpage. Google says the functionality will be available soon, and when it is, it's going to work with all versions of Android all the way back to Jelly Bean.