Ever since last year’s iOS 14 update, Apple users have been able to access App Clips from their mobile devices. App Clips are limited versions of apps that users can engage without downloading the full versions of these apps, and according to Apple, they’re “discoverable at the moment they’re needed.”
What does that mean? Maybe you’re paying for a meal (like in our examples) or looking up a location on a map, and maybe a specific app will help you complete your next action. Even if you don’t have the app installed, a limited version of it that can assist you — the App Clip — will make itself known via a pop-up banner card. For developers, it’s the card that will ultimately determine whether the App Clip gets used.
What is App Clip?
An App Clip is a lightweight version of your app that offers some of its functionality when and where it’s needed. It offers a focused feature set and is designed to launch instantly, protect user privacy, and preserve resources. As a result, an App Clip comes with some limitations. Before you create your App Clip, first review technology that’s available to App Clips and identify functionality that makes a great App Clip.
How does it work?
App Clips make use of pop-up cards designed to capture users’ attention and guide them toward the truncated versions of apps. A card will typically appear when a user takes a specific action with which an App Clip is designed to help. These actions include scanning a QR code, accessing an NFC tag, clicking a text message or, as of the upcoming iOS 15, visiting a website associated with a specific App Clip.
Companies can create their own App Clips in order to give their customers a smoother experience. As detailed by CNET, Panera Bread is one of these companies. Panera’s App Clip allows users to pay for food using Apple Pay, which is standard for App Clips. In addition, Panera’s App Clip is an information resource — users can see menus and find specific restaurant locations, for instance.
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Skip the line without giving up on privacy
Apple App Clips are about to change the way you think, and; moreover, they will probably change the way that we interact with our environment using our mobile devices. iOS14 App Clips enable you to do ‘here-and-now’ activities using your device almost instantly without sacrificing privacy or sharing your geolocation.
In the coffee shop example above, the QR code will invoke an App Clip where you are identified by using Apple Sign-in and can purchase using Apple Pay, allowing you to complete your purchase within seconds, effectively skipping the line.
App Clips requires app developers to understand a few new concepts and develop the App Clip alongside their app, which may require some refactoring.
How to create successful App Clips
An App Clip is a lightweight version of your app that offers some of its functionality when and where it’s needed. It offers a focused feature set and is designed to launch instantly, protect user privacy, and preserve resources.
As a result, an App Clip comes with some limitations. Before you create your App Clip, first review technology that’s available to App Clips and identify functionality that makes a great App Clip.
How will users discover App Clips?
A key part of the App Clips experience is how users discover them, so Apple set them up to be triggered through various sources.
App Clip Codes: This is the primary method Apple is pushing for developers to get their App Clips to users. The code is visually distinct (like a QR code), encodes a URL, and can incorporate an NFC tag. Users will scan the code with their iOS camera to open the App Clip. Developers can use App Store Connect or the App Clip Code Generator command-line tool to create single App Clip Codes or generate them in batches.
NFC Tags: Businesses can place NFC tags in specific locations so that users can tap these tags with their iPhones to launch the App Clip. These work even through a lock screen!
QR Codes: For customers who aren’t familiar with App Clip Codes yet, a QR code could be used to launch the App Clip by scanning the code with the camera app or the barcode reader.
Safari App Banner: Users can tap a web page configured with Smart App Banner to open the Apple clips app.
Links in Messages: Users can share and open App Clips directly from the Messages app.
Place Cards in Maps: An app clip can be linked to a particular location and registered to appear on a place card in Maps, which users will be able to open directly.
Recently Used App Clips: The new App Library will house recently used App Clips in case users want to find them again.
How can App Clips help with user acquisition?
App discovery is a huge challenge for developers and brands as they look to stand out among the 2 million apps in the App Store. With App Clips, users can find apps outside of the App Store in the context when it’s of most use to them. Offering the function they need at that moment saves time and provides an enhanced user experience.
Most users already have their app favorites and may not be eager to download more. With App Clips, businesses can give a preview of what their app is offering, allowing users to make a more informed decision on whether or not to download.
App Clips also provide a clearer path to purchase for consumers, which could result in increased revenue. Businesses that will be using App Clips to process orders can streamline the process by using Apple Pay instead of having the user fill out their credit card information. App Clips also work with “Sign in with Apple,” so users don’t have to fill out forms or set up new accounts.
This week, Apple announced that App Analytics now includes App Clip data. Developers have access to important data, including number of installs, sessions, and crashes. Companies can also see how users found their App Clips. Following Apple’s privacy policies, this data is available only from users who have agreed to share their diagnostics and usage information. Access to this data allows businesses to monitor their App Clips’ effectiveness and optimize accordingly.
Using app clip notifications to interact with users
Hassle-free interaction with users is a major benefit of using App Clips, which provide the option to schedule notifications for up to 8 hours after launch.
For example, consider you have a restaurant app that allows users to order food. By sending notifications, the App Clip can show the user more details about upcoming deliveries, like showing the delivery time or the courier’s location on the map.
App Clips can be launched when you’re paying for your drink in a coffee shop, or in a museum to claim your ticket, or when buying a plane ticket at the airport.
You can also use App Clips notifications for businesses with multiple outlets. For instance, a restaurant chain could show different menus, delivery times and contact details for its individual restaurants. When sending a notification, iOS only needs to know which restaurant is which so that the system can route the correct one.
The dilemma of App Clips
App Clips are a convenient way to use an app’s most popular features, when needed, without downloading the app. Nevertheless, an app clip is, by its very nature, limited in terms of what it offers. Customers who need an app for its less popular or more complicated uses will find that an App Clip doesn’t get the job done. They’ll have to download the complete app.
Restrictions and instructions around App Clip cards may make it harder for developers to “sell” their services — for instance, if an App Clip lets users do more than just place orders or pay for items, the card designer will have a difficult time conveying its capabilities in 56 characters.
Likewise, one static image may not give a user the full scope of what an App Clip can do. This is especially important considering that the user came across the App Clip when trying to complete a specific task (such as making a payment) — a personalized graphic referencing that task would be more likely to engage a user.
Apple has imposed several limitations on App Clips to allow users to enjoy instantaneous functionality with maximum privacy and transparency.
These limitations serve to provide the user with greater control over their privacy and become more confident with the privacy standards of the app:
- App Clips are limited to 10MB in size.
- App Clips are not included in iOS backups (this is actually more of a feature than a limitation).
- Limit App Tracking is always enabled in Apple App Clips, to protect user privacy and prevent user tracking across apps and App Clips. App Clips cannot request authorization to track a user with ATT, and both name and IDFA and IDFV return all-zeros string.
- App clips cannot perform background activity, such as background networking with URLSession or maintain Bluetooth connections when the App Clip is not in use.
- To protect user data, Apple App Clips cannot access:
- Motion and fitness data
- Apple Music and Media
- Data from apps like Contacts, Files, Messages, Reminders, and Photos.
- An App Clip cannot share data with any other app, except its corresponding full app.