App Links

Google is introducing App Links in Android M to enhance its native mobile deep linking support through regular web links by skipping the popup screen where the users use to select where to open the link - in the web or in an app.

App Links will permit users to tap on a normal web link and to immediately open the respective app in a specific section or to gracefully open the web page if the app is not installed. Hence, the user experience when opening links on Android gets enhanced with quick transitions between links and apps.

Because these are normal URLs they can be send, published and opened everywhere and if something goes wrong the browser opens the web page as usual. For example, tapping on a search for a recipe with Google Mobile Search, or on a link to a recipe sent by someone else, will take the user straight to the recipe screen within the app associated with the link’s domain.

SHA256 fingerprint

Android M introduced the support for App Links to enhance its mobile deep linking user experience. This will give your users a more seamless experience when using your Android app.

Enabling this technology involves creating a signature to allow your smart links to take advantage of this enhancement and quickly open your app.

The process is very simple. The only thing that you must provide us is a SHA256 fingerprint key to authenticate the association between your app and HOKO.

You can use the Java key tool to generate the fingerprint using the following command:

keytool -list -v -keystore my-release-key.keystore

A valid SHA256 fingerprint is something like “6C:EC:C5:0E:34:AE….EB:0C:9B”

App Links are a great deal for developers but there are a few drawbacks that might lead to an adoption resistance:

App Links only work on Google’s Android M.

Configuration an app to support App Links means that only the users running Android M will take advantage of this technology. Users with prior Android versions will not be able to open the apps just from tapping on the web links. Instead, they will all fall back to the browser and web page just like before with normal web links.

However, HOKO proprietary technology provides mobile deep linking for devices with Android 1.6 or higher. Hence your mobile deep links will work on almost every Android device worldwide, even if they have Android M or not.

App Links will always fall back to the web page that you must create first. What if the developer wants to fall back to the homepage or to a complete different website that is not associated with the app?

With App Links the web link must target a web page that actually exists so that the Android can gracefully fall back if the user doesn’t have the app installed. At the same time, the developer might want its mobile deep links to fall back to the web site homepage every time. Using App Links, that would imply that every link would look the same, e.g. just in case some user that doesn’t has the app installed could still open your website. The problem it’s that this web link has no information related with the specific content. Therefore, the app will not know what to do with the link.

The second scenario takes in consideration the mobile deep links that you want to catch with your app if it is installed or to fall back to a website that isn’t associated with the app if it isn’t installed, e.g. Achieving this would require some work by the developer, to configure a web page that could redirect its users to the destination page. Furthermore, the developer might not have a web site at all, turning this into a impossible solution.

The developer can easily solve both use cases using HOKO smart links and their adaptive fall back. For each smart link created, you can choose on each platform ‘what’ will happen if the app is not installed. Independently you can set the fall back to your web site, Google Play page or any other external web site.

With App Links the developer must host a website that will be associated with an app. This could be bad news for small developers that can’t claim, afford or maintain a website for their apps, but still want incoming traffic to their apps through web links.

HOKO is the solution for this problem because it acts as the developer website, with each app being hosted in different subdomains. Thus the developer just needs create the smart links and publish its URLs and each will open the appropriate app seamlessly.

The association between your app and your website is powered by a configuration file that needs to be created and hosted in the developer’s website.

With HOKO you can skip this tedious configuration because we provided it out-of-the-box. Furthermore our servers run using the industry top standards for security and performance, providing this configuration to each device in a secure and fast manner.

Read more about the advantages of using HOKO’s smart links →