Web apps that look and behave much like native mobile apps are coming to Android. Starting with version 31 of the Chrome beta for Android, web apps can appear full-screen without users seeing the traditional browser. They can also be installed directly to the Android home screen on a smartphone or tablet and will appear in Android’s task switching view, just like traditional Android software.
The news was announced on Thursday on Google+ by Paul Kinlan, a Google Chrome Developer Advocate. According to the Google Developer support page, developers need to include this line in their web app to take advantage of the new functionality: <meta name=”mobile-web-app-capable” content=”yes”>
Technically, the function is called “Install to Homescreen,” but clearly it does much more than that. By treating the web apps as unique entities, they’re integrated into Android as any other mobile app for the platform. And that’s what brings more of a native experience to them: You can switch to them just like any running native app and they appear to be running outside of the Chrome browser.
This approach is similar to the desktop version of Chrome and Google’s Chrome OS: Both of these can run web-based apps independently of and outside of the browser. But they maintain the sandboxing security feature found in Chrome. So too do the web apps in the new Chrome beta for Android: Google says these apps “follow the same sandboxed security policies and have access to the same API’s” as they would if running directly in the browser.