How to upgrade your android app to an instant app?

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We hear a lot about instant apps these days. Whenever you are launching an app, you will have an idea of what your app is about. You will have certain goals such as – generating huge traffic and revenue, getting high rating on App Store, beneficial to users etc. Getting the app in front of large audience could be another important goal of your app.


If you want to achieve a lot more than this, Android Instant app can help you. You will learn an entirely new way to reach new users, especially those who don’t have your app on their device. Instant app feature will make your app reachable and discoverable from any location such as – Google search results, emails, URLs, social media posts, YouTube comments etc.


There are a lot of things to know about Instant Apps. In this post, I will help you understand what instant apps are and why you need one.


Let’s go step by step….


What are instant apps?

Google Instant apps are a great step in app evolution, as they give native apps a great speed and power.  They also allow you to separate each of the app’s features into stand-alone module. Though they look like other apps installed on your phone, they are quite different. You don’t need to download anything to use these apps. Using them is just like browsing a web page and it disappears as soon as you close the window. Instant apps can be run on any phone with Jelly Bean.


Instant apps don’t have any limitations, which make it easier for developers to deliver things such as- signing up account, purchasing and other things with much ease. Instant apps are targeted specifically and hence developers can choose to deliver certain portion of their app at a specific time. This will lock the rest of the app until the user downloads the entire app.


It is easier to create an app that is pre-configured with Instant app. Instant apps remove the barriers between new users and the app, and ensures that the shared content is best option to advertise your app.


Structure of instant app

Google Instant app technology allows programmers to develop apps that can be launched directly from Google Play without being installed on the device. The software of this technology acts just like web apps. They are loaded dynamically and once the work is completed, they do not remain in the system. For instance — if the user taps on a link on the search results, his/her device will load a minimal version of app that is on Google Play. The link may have minimal set of features and brief information about the app.


Developers should build an app that can be detachable and downloaded separately. Android instant apps can use the same technology as normal apps. When Google play receives URL request that matches instant app, it sends the necessary code to Android device, which runs the app.


Android instant app technology enables native apps to run in response to URL launch. These can be built using APIs and Android Studio.


If we have a look at the structure of Instant app, it includes only a base feature. All the features must depend on the base feature that contains all the shared resources, layout files, fragments and other activities. The base feature module produces an APK file — when built into an instant app.


Apps at basic level have at least one feature. However, some apps have multiple features. Users can use single feature without installing other features. To provide on-demand features, the app should be divided into smaller modules. Each APK is built from the feature module and can be downloaded – when the app is launched as instant app.


When the user launches a feature of instant app on their device, they first see the entry point activity. Though a feature needs only one entry point, in some cases the feature can have more entry points.


Why you need an Instant app?

Android instant apps can be said as lite versions of native apps that can be used without downloading. Android developers need not to focus on different metrics like – installing the app, ranking etc. They can focus on enhancing user experience and improving user retention. The majority of apps are used only once and users delete them to save storage space. Some of the reasons why you need instant apps are –


  • Users can quickly get what they want. Startup companies can increase user acquisition by offering additional features in their native app.
  • Instant apps can enhance user experience, especially when it comes to ecommerce apps.
  • Instant apps improve user retention, as they help to build trust. Users get attracted to your instant app due to their simplicity.


Instant app is a revolutionary idea that made apps available to the users without the need of installing them. If you want to know more about the possible benefits of instant apps, contact us.


Why you need an Instant app


What are the tools required to build android instant apps? 

Android instant apps run only on devices that run on Android 6 or higher. To start building android instant app, you need some of the below tools –


  • Android Studio
  • JDK 1.8
  • Android SDK 6.0+
  • Android SDK Build Tools 26.x or above
  • Android Tools 25.x or above
  • Android SDK platform tools 25.x or above
  • Gradle 4.0


Steps to upgrade your existing android app to instant app

It is pretty easy to update an existing app to Instant app. As a developer, you need not to build a separate app. You can use the same API, same code and same project to update the existing app. The effort involved in updating an app may vary, depending on the way your app is structured. Here is a step by step guide to update your existing app.


Step 1 – Develop use case of your app by focusing more on user experience. Set up development environment by using the above tools. To build an Instant app, you need to install SDK. For this, go to Tools -> Android -> SDK Manager -> SDK tools -> Instant app development SDK -> Apply. Set up the device that runs on Android 6.0 or higher, such as Nexus S, Galaxy S7, and Nexus 6P etc.


Step 2 – The next step is to move the existing code to feature module, so that a minimal application module can be created. Convert the ‘app’ module to ‘app-base’ module and change the type to feature module. This can be achieved by changing the plugin from to The gradle files should be synchronized to rebuild the project. The source code has been transformed into reusable library module.


Step 3 – Build the APK module, by entering the app name “app apk” from File -> New Module. The complete dependencies in appaapl should be replaced. Remove the application element from appaapk/src/main/AndroidManifest.xml, and keep only a single Manifest element. The apps core functionality has been moved into shareable feature module.


Step 4 – The next step is to make instant app modules by using APKs. The app base module APK comprises of full functionality of the app. The instant app module can be created with single feature APK. The instant app module can be created and updated to depend on the base feature module. The instant app does not hold any resources or source code, but ‘build.gradle’ file.


Step 5 – The last step is to define app links that are required in instant apps. As URLs are the only way to launch an instant app, the instant app should be made addressable. Establish a relationship between the app and website to enable instant app runtime. You can use Android Studio feature called “App Link Assistant” to associate links.



Instant apps are awesome, as these are developed for specific function. Instant apps will come into play when users click a link that is associated with the app they haven’t downloaded in their device. Google has rolled out this feature on majority of devices that use Google Play services. It can also be added as an upgrade to your existing app.


If you are an android developer and want to give Instant App a try, you should know that Google is rolling it out to interested developers. If you are a business owner and want to upgrade existing android app, contact us.


Can’t wait to see what you can do with instant app? Start building your Instant app today!

Ready to Take the Next Step?


Rahul Singh

Sr. App Developer

Rahul has been associated with the apps industry for more than 9 years now. He has seen the apps economy grow from its nascent days to a full fledged industry with its complete ecosystem as of today. His interest lies in pursuing and getting to know the best app development technologies, processes and platforms. He is truly an app enthusiast. In his free time he loves playing console games and reading history.

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