Here I am, on the streets of Wroclaw. Pandemic lockdown rules have been partially lifted and I can finally go and meet my friend. I don't really wanna use the train, because... well people. So I opt-in for one of those electric scooters.

There are two just next to me, but they’re not owned by the company I’ve signed up for. I check the app I have installed, but there are none nearby. Ok, looked up the app for one of the scooters that are near me. Downloaded, registered, about to unlock it and happily drive... The scooter is out of battery. It's fine, it's fine. Not frustrated at all. Downloading the 3rd scooter app on my phone, going through registration, and finally, it worked! I'm driving, albeit a bit less happily, to my meeting, thinking: I can't wait for App Clips to be here...

Image Credit: Apple

What exactly are App Clips?

App Clips are a new feature in iOS 14 presented by Apple on the last WWDC, and as you can see, I'm already hyped about them. They are fast, lightweight, on-demand portions of your application. A good App Clip focuses on allowing the user to finish their task within seconds and that's including "installation".

The typical journey:

1. An iPhone user encounters one of the ways to launch an App Clip, this could be a QR code.

2. This user scans it and is presented with an App Clip card, which is only one click away from a sliced portion of an application.

3. After 8 hours the app is gone from the user's phone.

The last part is an important bit. The App Clip is not a separate product. It's more like an extension to your existing one. You cannot have an App Clip without having an App on the App Store.

WWDC2020 - Image Credit: Apple

Is a scooter renting company the only place to use App Clips?

Shockingly, no! Imagine going to a paid parking and instead of dealing with parking machines, you simply scan a code and press pay. What's even cooler, you don't even need to scan any physical code to start the interaction. Because the parking lot is associated with a specific location. An App Clip can be registered to appear on a place card in Maps so users can open it from there.

If you're thinking, “but I have several parking lots, can I tag my App Clip with a different location?”. Yes, you can. We can even go a step further. Let's say you are providing a solution for small businesses. Be it our parking lot owners or even better, a delivery service for multiple restaurants. Not only can you have a tag per restaurant on Maps, but also, you can customise App Clips to a given business using their own branding.

With COVID in mind, restaurants are looking for ways to reduce in person contact and there is a big opportunity with App Clips. Restaurants can put QR codes on each table where customers can quickly scan and get a menu pop up on their phone. What's even better, thanks to the way you can set up links, you can have a code per table. So the client can order through an App Clip, and the restaurant will know which table the order has to go to.

Since most of this can be done through a QR code why bother?

It’s true, opening a website with QR is still a valid approach, but there is a difference in experience. App Clips have great integration with Apple’s frameworks, and what's most important, they look like a part of iOS and can prevent the interruption of the users end to end experience.

This is so exciting! Tell me more...

Okay, reader, I will! First of all, it's not only QR codes that trigger the launch of your brand new App Clip; we have banners in Safari, Maps, nearby suggestions from Siri, messages and NFC marked with Apple’s new design.

If that's still not enough, App Clips is based on your application development. It’s no different than developing an App. This means that developers don't need to learn any new magic tricks to implement this. However, there is a 10 MB limit on the size of the App Clip and that may cause some problems. Images, dependencies, wanting our App Clip to do too much could affect the performance. We’ll discuss this in a follow-up blog post

Last words

The way that we interact with apps is being redesigned and the introduction of App Clips are a step in the right direction. For users this means; no more App Store, unnecessary downloads, signing in or going through numerous tutorials. For App creators, this is a new way to help the user save time when purchasing their product, and may be a way to engage them to download the full version. It’s much easier to check out the functionality of an app, without the overhead of downloading and signing in. It's a cool feature that is well integrated into the OS, giving users a seamless experience. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how developers make the most of this new feature.