What Are Google Instant Apps and How Do They Work?

Learn to enable instant apps on your Android

screenshot of person using Android smartphone with city in background

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To use an Android app in the traditional sense, you first need to download and install it. Google Play Instant apps are a convenient alternative to this path, letting you utilize parts of an app even if it’s not currently installed on your smartphone or tablet.

What is the Purpose of Instant Apps?

Developers include Google Play Instant in their apps so users can preview a slimmed-down version prior to deciding whether or not they want to download and install the full thing. This offering can come in the form of a Try Now button on the app’s Google Play Store page, a banner on a website, a link in an email, or an alternate delivery method such as a scannable QR code.

How Do Instant Apps Work?

As soon as one of the above is selected, Google Play automatically sends just the files needed to run the respective features to your device and instantly launches the app. No downloads, no installers, and most importantly—no waiting.

How to Enable Instant Apps on Your Android Device

To take advantage of Google Play Instant you must first ensure the feature is enabled on your smartphone or tablet.

  1. Open the Google Play Store from your device’s home screen.

  2. The Google Play app interface should now be displayed. Tap the Hamburger Menu icon in the upper left-hand corner.

  3. When the drop-down menu appears, tap Settings.

    Play Store, Menu icon, Settings button in Google Play Store
  4. Tap Google Play Instant, located in the User controls section.

  5. Tap the Upgrade web links toggle so it turns green, signifying this setting is now active.

    Google Play Instant, Toggle for Upgrade web links

Tapping specific Google Play-branded links will still launch instant apps, when applicable, even if the Upgrade web links setting is disabled.

How to Manage Previously-Used Instant Apps

Although instant apps are not full-fledged versions and are not actually installed on your smartphone or tablet, in many instances they still store data as you use them. This data can be removed by taking the steps below.

  1. Open Settings, then scroll down and tap Apps.

  2. A list of apps should now appear, containing those installed on your device, as well as Instant Apps that have been used previously. Tap the name of the Instant App in question.

  3. A wealth of information about the Instant App is now shown, including how much storage space and memory it's using, as well as battery and mobile data usage. To clear all data currently stored by this app, tap Clear app and follow the on-screen prompts. 

    Apps, BuzzFeed, Clear app in Android settings
  4. You can also view or modify the permissions currently granted to this Instant App in the App settings section, as well as control which web addresses are supported by the app. 

If you’d like to install the full version of an Instant App, that can also be achieved through this App info interface. Just tap Install.