November 18, 2020
App Clips Introduction
Introduced in June 2020, iOS 14 came with a couple of new features for both developers and end-users. App Clips, among many other new features, caught our attention as one of the most promising new functionalities.
The idea behind App Clips
App Clips are one of the new features that became all the buzz very quickly. We see it as Apple’s better-promoted answer to Android Instant apps. Apple intends to slightly change the way we interact with the environment. Thus, they created these ultra-light Apps to help us finish some simple in-the-moment tasks in no time and without a struggle. Imagine buying coffee without waiting in line, or paying for a parking spot without looking for coins or cash. Renting bikes or e-scooters could be so convenient, it could free from the whole downloading and sign up process. Museums and galleries could have augmented reality previews of their inventory with a simple visual code scan. App Clips aim to provide a specific use-case(s) of an application, so there won’t be a need to download an entire app to do those tasks.
Permissions and security
App Clips are invisible to the end-user most of the time. They get automatically deleted by the system after a period of inactivity. A single App Clip may take a users' one-time location for specific validation purposes (that can be denied in advance), or it can request for location only when App Clip is in use. It also automatically resets the next day. It doesn’t share data between apps and can’t access user's contacts, photos, messages, etc. Therefore, privacy is kept intact.
App Clips may also send users certain notifications (e.g. the order is ready, payment was successful, rent successfully started, etc.) but only up to 8 hours after launch. Once again, users will be able to refuse to receive any notifications, if they so prefer.
Launching App Clips is quite simple and could be done in various ways. Users will discover NFC tags and QR codes in restaurants, museums, rental vehicles, and so on. A quick scan of those codes will open the app, but it requires the user's physical presence. Additionally, users could tap on links shared over the Messages app or on Smart App Banners on websites. Locations (e.g. restaurants) on Apple Maps could have a link that will open App Clip. Lastly, Siri Suggestions could suggest nearby places with App Clips that users may try.
Triggering one of the mentioned methods will open the App Clip card with brief information about it and the open CTA (Open, View, and Play copies are supported at the moment ). The header image, title, and subtitle are customizable. Tapping on the CTA opens the actual App Clip. At that point, the App Clip is being downloaded from the App Store. But as mentioned before, App Clips are pretty lightweight so users won’t even notice the downloading process and will be in the app in no time and with no additional interaction. User experience will not be affected.
Locations, Locations, Locations
Another great feature is the location-based App Clip where users may see different content based on locations. As mentioned earlier, users’ privacy will be protected but App Clip will need to request a one-time location to give users proper information. Refusing to share location may cause limitations but within reason. For example, users shouldn’t be able to start an e-scooter rent if they are not next to it.
Apps that work with multiple businesses may experience a special benefit when using App Clips. For example, food ordering or table reservation apps that work with different restaurants may create a distinctive App Clip card for each restaurant with a custom App Clip icon, image, title, and subtitle. Restaurants are probably already added to Apple Maps and with just a couple of clicks, they could be connected to the app.
It should be noted that if users download the full app, every other time they try to open App Clip, it will actually open the full app. So, the full app will replace the App Clip.
At App Crafters, we like to see new things contributing to app evolution. App Clips serves as a perfect example when it comes to developing apps which we don't use daily. Therefore, we've put together this Splitbilly proof of concept app to see possibilities, as well as what kind of experiences it can give to its users.
Make sure you check out our own App Clips example and proof of concept - Splitbilly.