Android’s New Feature Paves Way for Apps Replacing Web

Back around 2009 there was a lot of speculation about whether smartphone apps would replace the Web. After all, most major companies have both a mobile app and a website, and in general smartphone users prefer using native apps. So why would websites still be necessary in such a world?

As we know, mobile apps have not replaced websites, and for several good reasons. First, many users still use their laptop or desktop computer to access the Internet. Second, not all websites have a companion mobile app. Third, downloading mobile apps takes time, bandwidth, storage space, and screen estate. For those reasons, it makes sense to use your mobile device’s browser to access the majority of websites, then download apps for a handful of popular sites that you use often.

However, Google is looking at removing some of those obstacles through its new App Trial technology.

What Is App Trial Technology?

According to a new report from The Information, Google is working on a way for consumers to download trial versions of Android apps before committing to a full-featured version:

Now Google is considering ways to let consumers try out new apps without downloading them in full, something that could save people time and data usage on their mobile phone plans as well as lead to more downloads, according to a person involved in the discussions about the technology. The approach could be especially useful in developing countries where people have less money to spend on app downloads using their mobile connection.

It’s unclear whether Google will go about this by asking developers to create a demo version of their app or if Google will create the streamlined versions themselves through the Google Play store.

If the latter is true, the technology may be related to a 2011 patent filed by Google called “Customizing Mobile Applications,” in which Google patents the process of customizing mobile apps based on user preference and device information.


How Might App Trials Replace Websites?

Native app usage continues to dominate mobile Web usage, with the percentage of time spent in native apps up 6 percent in 2014 to 86 percent versus 14 percent mobile Web usage.

Out of that 14 percent mobile Web usage, I think it’s safe to say that a good portion of that originates from search. Now, what if Google could search within apps, and downloading an app was as fast as loading a Web page? I think it would be safe to assume that if those two things were true, apps would start crowding out Web pages in mobile search results.

How Far Away Are We?

Clearly, websites aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. That said, I think the trends of increased mobile usage, faster data speeds, and smaller app sizing, through App Trial technology, puts us on a path where websites will be considered a secondary path to accessing information behinds apps. Maybe in 10 or 25 years, websites will be more of an archive of Internet past.

This transition from Web to native dominance will certainly lead to a new generation of SEO: a world where traffic and attention is spread across an ecosystem of traditional websites, mobile apps, and various Internet-connected devices.

How to Prepare

A brand’s first step to prepare for this shift is to simply have a mobile app. Obviously Google will be rolling out the App Trial technology on Google Play, so having an Android version of your app is important. There isn’t any word from Apple on whether they are thinking of doing their own version of free trial for the Apple store.

If your brand already has an Android app, ask your developer to keep an eye out for updates from Google on when developers can enroll in the free trial program, and if it requires a separate version of the app to be developed.

As for SEOs, the best advice I can give is to experiment with creating apps yourself. As with traditional websites, you don’t haveto be a developer to optimize a site, but it certainly helps.

What Do You Think?

Do you think Google will eventually display native apps within their search results? If so, is it possible that traditional websites will lose their relevance? Or will HTML5 continue to develop to the point where there is no difference between a native app experience and a traditional Web page experience in a mobile browser? Leave a comment below.

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