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Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps
May 22, 2024

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

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Google has a new plan to promote Android apps outside of its Play Store. It was launched last week at its Google I/O 2024 developer conference, where the company spoke of a plan to re-engage users with apps they already have installed on their devices, as well as new ones, by giving developers a place to showcase their content in a unique way. Already, the company has more than 35 developer partners on board to test the new offering, including Spotify, Pinterest, Tumblr, TikTok and Shopify.

In a developer session at I/O, the company went into a bit more detail, saying the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time. Developers that choose to integrate with the currently invite-only Engage SDK, as it’s called, will have a way to bring users back into their app by showcasing interesting content, promotions and deals, the company said.

‘This new surface will automatically organize the best and most prevalent content from apps already installed by users on their Android phone, and it enables cross-app continuation journeys for nearly every app category,’ explained Mekka Okereke, the GM for apps for Google Play, during a developer briefing at I/O. ‘With just a tap, users can launch full-screen, immersive experiences that highlight and arrange the most important content from their installed apps.’

The nod to the full-screen, immersive experience brings to mind something like a TikTok feed, but we understand that’s not quite the case, though Google isn’t yet explaining what, exactly, this new ‘surface’ is. We hear it will be exclusive to Android devices — another example of how the company is leveraging its ability to integrate with its mobile OS to build out new experiences that benefit developers and consumers alike.

From this ‘Engage’ surface, developers will be able to offer deep links that open specific pages inside their mobile apps.

During the presentation, Google showed what looked like a series of widgets that, when tapped, would bring users to some specific task in an app. For example, tapping on an image of sneakers would bring the Android user to a page in a shopping app where they could complete the purchase, perhaps prompting the user to buy something they had saved in their cart. However, the sneakers were showcased inside a ‘surface’ that included other products to buy from different apps, too. In other words, instead of having widgets dedicated to a single app, it seems the new surface may be able to group content from similar apps to encourage users to re-engage and complete their journey.

Other companies like Reddit, Uber Eats and Spotify could also use the surface to help users jump back into specific experiences related to those apps, like reading and upvoting posts, engaging with playlists or placing an order.

Spotify says it’s still in the process of building out its experience and determining how it would use the SDK. However, it did note that the plan is to use the Engage SDK across all Android devices.

As Okereke explained, developers will be able to drive users back to their entertainment offerings, their browsing sessions or to reorder their favorites or engage with any other app experience.

Tumblr, for instance, says it’s working with Google to offer users more content around things they already like. ‘Google’s Engage SDK is great for Tumblr because our community is unmistakably unique in how they express themselves. The ‘yes-and’ culture on Tumblr creates an atmosphere that’s given birth to some of the greatest internet memes and trends,’ said Tumblr COO Zandy Ring. ‘It’s exciting for us to bring that culture to other spaces and invite those audiences back to Tumblr. Integration with Engage is like opening a two-lane highway that will bridge communities in a natural way.’

The consumer-facing feature won’t be just about reminding users what they want to do inside an app, but also to push them to take action by offering a deal. ‘You can showcase personalized recommendations and promotions, ensuring that users discover content they might otherwise have missed,’ Okereke said.

In addition, the surface will also recommend apps that the users haven’t yet installed using ‘compelling content’ from within those apps, he said.

The developer preview of the Engage SDK began during I/O, but the consumer experience won’t launch until later this year. The Engage SDK is a client-side integration using on-device APIs. Developers that have begun the work found it requires less than a week to get started, Google claims.

Other top apps participating in the test of the Engage SDK include Audible, Shein, Dunkin, Wish, Blinklist, Wattpad, Nextdoor, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Rakuten Kobo, Temu, YouTube Music, Google Maps, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Prime Video, Reddit, YouTube, Uber Eats and others.


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