Android’s upcoming ‘Collections’ feature will drive users back to their apps

Google’s plan to promote Android apps outside its Play Store is starting to shape up, as a new feature called “Collections” reveals a way that users will be able to keep up with their apps from their Android home screen. At this year’s Google I/O developer conference, the company presented developers with tools to re-engage users with the apps they already have installed on their devices. However, the company at the time didn’t detail what this surface would look like, only focusing on the software development kit (SDK) that developers could access to integrate with the new offering.

Google also shared that it already has over 35 developer partners on board to test the new feature, including Spotify, Pinterest, Tumblr, TikTok and Shopify.

In a session at the conference, developers were presented with information about a new invite-only Engage SDK, designed largely to bring users back into their apps by showcasing content, promotions, and deals. The surface, Google said, would “automatically organize the best and most prevalent content from apps already installed” with a focus on enabling cross-ap-continuing journeys for nearly every app category.

With a tap, users would be able to launch full-screen, immersive experiences that highlight and arrange the most important content from their installed apps.

Now, we’re starting to get an idea of what this surface will look like, thanks to an APK teardown of the Google Play Store software, performed by the blog Android Authority. Their experiments in reverse engineering reveal a still-in-development feature known as “Collections.” Previously referred to by the codename “Cubes,” the feature introduces a Play-Store-powered widget for the Android home screen that organizes app updates into categories like Watch, Listen, Read, Games, Social and Shop.

Image Credits: Android Authority (opens in a new window)

When users select a given category, they would be shown all the relevant content from their apps in this space, presuming the apps had integrated with the SDK.

As Google described during the I/O session, the new on-device surface would organize what’s most relevant to users, inviting them to jump back into their apps. The company offered a few examples, as well, showing how retail apps could invite people to continue their shopping journey by highlighting what they had saved in their cart, while apps like Uber Eats might invite users to place their favorite food order. Reddit could encourage people to read and upvote interesting posts, while Spotify could feature favorite playlists.

Google said app developers could also use the feature to showcase “personalized recommendations and promotions” that would help discover other content and deals they may have missed.

The APK teardown revealed that the feature is launching first in the U.S., before rolling out to new markets and will also be easily accessible by way of a shortcut from the Play Store app itself. That is, when you long press on the Play Store app, there will be a link to access to access Collections from the pop-up menu that appears.

Google hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment on the Collections feature, but it announced earlier that the consumer experience would launch later this year. Of note, Google recently announced a new hardware and Android event, “Made by Google,” which will take place in August. We’ve heard Google expects to announce this feature more officially at that time.


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