Mobile app developers have yet another tool in their user acquisition arsenal today: Voxel has released a significant update to its existing “try before you buy” app-preview engine.

Candy Monster: Crush Rush SagaIn short, it instantly turns an ad for your app into your app — right within the app you’re advertising in.

Voxel has offered this service for some time, saying there should be just one single step between hearing about an app and playing it instantly. But it’s been challenging for app developers to take advantage of, as they had to customize their apps as demos to make it work, CEO David Zhao told me via Skype.

Now that’s no longer necessary.

230 developers with 397 million MAU told us what works best in mobile user acquisition:
The VB Mobile User Acquisition report

“Simply upload your existing app, and we’ll turn it into a playable ad,” he said. “It’s easier than ever.”

Voxel calls the new technology App FastForward, and it automates the creation of a playable app-within-an-ad. Zhao says it works by freezing the state of the virtualized app at a particular point and replaying the “snapshot” whenever an ad is requested, in real-time. In addition, Voxel says it has built predictive analytics that allow it to pre-load the mini-app inside an ad so that it’s ready to go whenever a user wants it.

flappy bird trial“As a result, connecting to a remote app on Voxel is 20 times faster than starting the same app on your device,” Zhao says.

Voxel says the new technology boosts install rates 50-200 percent higher than typical ads. Interestingly, a competitor that offers similar functionality, mNectar, says that not only are install rates higher, but after users actually download your full app, retention rates are four times higher.

Early users include, makers of Candy Crush Saga and many other games, as well as Electronic Arts, and GSN.

Another early partner seems happy with the new tech:

“Playable ads create a win-win scenario, as users waste less time clicking and backing out of misleading ads, and publishers maximize the value of each impression they deliver,” James Peng, head of user acquisition at Storm8, said in a statement.

Voxel is still a relative newcomer in the user acquisition space, but it’s growing fast. The company says it has delivered over five million app previews so far, and this number is jumping 50 percent month over month.

The technology supports both Android and iOS.

User acquisition is a huge challenge for mobile developers, with over a third reporting getting cheated in their user acquisition campaigns. Any new tool for simple app marketing for high-value users is generally a welcome development.