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

Google has introduced a new initiative to promote Android apps outside its Play Store, unveiled at the Google I/O 2024 developer conference. This plan aims to re-engage users with existing apps and attract them to new ones by providing developers a unique platform to showcase their content. Over 35 developers, including major names like Spotify, Pinterest, Tumblr, TikTok, and Shopify, are already participating in testing this new feature.

During a developer session at the conference, Google explained that the new Engage SDK would help fulfill its mission of connecting the right audience with the right content at the right time. This invite-only SDK allows developers to re-engage users by highlighting interesting content, promotions, and deals within their apps. 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 new initiative from Google involves a full-screen, immersive experience somewhat reminiscent of a TikTok feed, though the specifics remain unclear. This new “surface” is exclusive to Android devices, leveraging Google’s mobile OS to enhance user and developer experiences. During the Google I/O presentation, a series of widgets were shown that, when tapped, lead users to specific tasks within apps. For instance, tapping on an image of sneakers might direct a user to a purchase page within a shopping app, encouraging them to buy saved items. This surface can group similar app content, promoting user re-engagement across various apps.

Companies like Reddit, Uber Eats, and Spotify can use this surface to bring users back to specific app experiences, such as reading posts, engaging with playlists, or placing orders. Spotify is still developing its use of the SDK, planning to integrate it across all Android devices to enhance user interaction with entertainment and browsing sessions.

Tumblr is also collaborating with Google to offer more personalized content, capitalizing on the platform’s unique community culture. Tumblr COO Zandy Ring highlighted that the Engage SDK aligns with Tumblr’s creative expression, fostering a natural bridge between communities and inviting users back to the platform.

The consumer-facing feature of Google’s new initiative goes beyond merely reminding users of their activities within an app. It also aims to prompt users to take action by offering deals. “You can showcase personalized recommendations and promotions, ensuring that users discover content they might otherwise have missed,” explained Okereke.

Additionally, this new surface will suggest apps that users haven’t yet installed by presenting “compelling content” from those apps. This approach is designed to help users find new apps that align with their interests, further enhancing their engagement and interaction within the Android ecosystem.

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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