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Unless you've been forcibly avoiding the news, you know iOS 14 is now a thing. But if you don't use an iPhone (or maybe even if you do), you might not have bothered checking out what was new in Apple's latest mobile operating system. But as fail to be basically every year we watch the WWDC keynote, no one on the Android Police was surprised to have one recurring thought: "hey, that feature looks familiar." Apple apparently felt very inspired by Android in the last year, and iOS 14 has a whole bunch of "world-first" innovations to show you that—very coincidentally!—also happen to be on Android.
There are so many announcements at Google I/O, keeping track of them all is a bit daunting. While many of the sessions are intended for developers, there are still a lot of details that might directly impact users, or at least the indirect impacts can be fairly obvious. That's where a lot of topics from the What's New in Google Play session land. Some of the news was about brand new announcements while other things were recaps of recent launches or minor updates to current projects. Regardless, everybody will be seeing a lot of changes over the next several months, be it more varied listings for apps, (hopefully) fewer bizarre disappearances of apps, and lighter weight downloads and installs.
One of the things that's unique to the Play Store compared to other mobile app stores is the ability to try out an app without having to download and install it. Android Instant Apps have been around for over two years now, with support for Instant Games added back in March, allowing potential users to play around with a game before deciding to download the full version. For developers, this provides a golden opportunity to get their app or game into the hands of users who would likely not have downloaded it otherwise, with the only real drawback being the small additional work involved in getting the Instant app up and running.
A beta update to the Google app has been making the rounds. As usual, there's not much new to see after installing this release, but many changes are awaiting Google to flip a switch before going live. Also following the usual pattern, there's a teardown of the APK that provides plenty of hints about what's to come. Version 7.24 reveals plans for a floating bubble with current sports scores that remains visible on top of other apps, an effect for the Google search box, a mysterious new project called Valyrian, assorted follow-ups for the Pixel Buds, home automation, and more.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information.
Google has been talking about Instant Apps for a few years now, but it only turned developers loose on the tools around the middle of last year. With Instant Apps gaining popularity, users have started to notice some strange behavior. In Android 8.0, Instant Apps appear to break the ability of the PackageManager to return a list of installed apps.
It's coming up on two years now since Google first introduced the idea of Android Instant Apps. Instead of users having to download and install a full app prior to using it, Instant Apps allowed developers to give users a way to jump right into app screens and start interacting with them, as easily as if they'd clicked a link to a webpage. Not only did that let you get things done faster, but also served as some smart advertising for devs; if a user liked what they saw with Instant Apps, they might consider downloading and installing the full thing.
For the past few years, the primary way to build Android applications has been through Google's Android Studio. The first stable release arrived in 2014, with version 2.0 appearing last year. The third major update was announced at Google I/O 2017, and now it is finally ready for prime time.
The road to Instant Apps has been a long and tedious one. After being announced at I/O 2016 (yes, more than a year ago), they only began testing at the start of 2017, were opened to devs at I/O this year, and started properly rolling then to reach more than 500 Million devices in August. One component was still missing though from the Instant Apps experience: a way to try an Instant App on the Play Store without downloading it first. That's what we're here to talk about.
Instant Apps were first announced over a year ago at Google I/O 2016. Put simply, when tapping on search results from a supported site, a minimal version of the site's app would quickly install and immediately display the content. For example, tapping on a Vimeo link would open the Vimeo app and the video would start playing.