What are Instant Apps?

January 24, 2017  |  By Remington Tramel  |       

There has been a lot of talk in China about Tencent’s recent announcement around Instant Apps, or “mini programs” as they call them. The idea behind them is simple.  Users interact with these instant apps in WeChat, Tencent’s messaging platform, without having to download the actual app to the phone. This user experience brings many potential benefits:

  • Ease of use – Chinese on average spend over 1/3 of their time on the mobile web within WeChat, now it’s even easier to switch between apps, when you don’t have to leave the app.
  • Increased storage – Users no longer waste precious storage space on apps they only use occasionally. Examples might include food delivery, POI, or travel booking apps.
  • Customizable experience – There are no preloaded apps here (yet), users only use what they need. In fact, there is no Instant App Store! The apps are discoverable only by QR code, sharing or searching for the specific app name.

Can we have Instant Apps in the car?

Many in the automotive industry are asking exactly what Tencent’s Instant Apps mean for in-vehicle apps and driver experience.

 “Will Tencent be the one to bring this concept to automotive or will someone else lead this endeavor?”

 “What benefits will they bring to OEMs, content providers and drivers?”

 To answer these questions,we first need to understand what are Instant Apps. Essentially, they are web apps running in a browser that appears to be something else. This web centric approach brings enormous benefits to the connected car ecosystem:

  • Branded, Up-to-date Content - OEMs can easily create customized HMIs with third party content and  roll out new content to their drivers on a regular basis (without having to update the head unit or app). It will also be easier than ever to push new, OEM exclusive apps to multiple car models without endless IOP testing.
  • Leverage the Web - Content providers can provide content to OEMs using the same content and resources as they do for their existing web centric services. They develop one app for cars; the OEMs customize the UI as they see fit.
  • Keeping it Simple - With one app managing content and services, users can pick and choose which content they want. At the end of the day, the consumer simply wants to connect their phone to the car and use their apps,without having to worry which ones they will need to download, or if they need a special version of a given app.

Do we still need the smartphone?

Some may ask why we need to run instant apps on the phone at all, we can simply run them on the head unit. On the surface this sounds like a great idea, why mess around with phones at all?  The smartphone provides users the single best infotainment experience and here is why:

  • Contacts – Users have instant access to their contacts, no need to sync via Bluetooth, or login to a contact management service that may not always sync.
  • Appointments – Users often have at least two email accounts tracking their appointments, one for work, and one for personal use. They can access both using their smartphone.
  • Car Sharing – Several OEMs are rolling out their own car sharing services. Phones allow the user to bring a personalized infotainment experience with them and keeps their data securely on their phone (out out of the hands of the next driver)
  • Updates – OTA updates are becoming more prevalent in the industry, but it is still far easier to update an app on the user’s phone.
  • Data Plans – Users prefer to use one data plan for their phone as opposed to a separate one for their car.
  • Safety – By running apps on the phone, and projecting to the head unit, we are essentially taking the phone out of business, ensuring users drive safely.

 Instant Apps Today!

 All of this begs the question: “How do we get Instant Apps into cars, today?”

With Abalta’s WebLink solution, OEMs, content developers and consumers can utilize mini programs to bring customized content to the connected car.  WebLink provides drivers with the ability to access all of their content from the cloud, ask for help from their favorite virtual assistant and connect to their services using web based mini programs.

 How do you feel about Instant Apps? Is this something you would like to see in your car?

 

 

Topics: Automotive Trends, Automotive UI/UX, Connected Car - Technology, Infotainment/IVI, Connected Car - Apps

Remington Tramel

Remi Tramel is Country Manager in China for Abalta Technologies. He has extensive experience in China's connected car space bringing new and unique experiences to China's drivers.

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