During the WWDC in 2020, Apple announced its new App Clips service. The idea itself was not totally new. In fact, a mini-apps service was already provided by the Chinese platform Wechat, and in a different way by Android too (instant apps). Apple obviously means to take this service to the next level by focusing on the endless business chances that can result from it. Given how easy they are to use, and their greater flexibility, Apple predicts that there will be a major shift from the use of complete apps to clips, so the two are likely to coexist in the near future. Of course, much will also depend on the ability of individual developers to create perfectly functional clips that will be more than just a demo of the original app.


Clips: what are they?

How do these App clips work? We can call them “fractions” of apps created to fulfil a specific purpose. Connected to the main app, they do not require installation and can be very useful for carrying out some actions (such as microtransactions) in a brief time, without the necessity to download the complete app.

They can be activated via NFC, QR code, URL, or a call to action. Although access to given system services (such as apple pay) is required, it is possible to hypothesize the use of these clips from a user-centred service perspective. In fact, many of these clips can appear as a suggestion on the screen according to the customer’s habits, or even depending on the customer’s location. Since they are extremely light versions of the app from which they were “born”, it is often enough to activate them instantly by a simple touch, they do not burden the memory of our device or cause chaos on the desktop (Apple has set a weight limit of only 10MB for each clip). We can also consider clips as a means to motivate the user to download the full app. The user will receive a notification that will suggest the download of the original version.

A new standard for the app market.

The system could also bring some new energy to the app market, which generally tends to be monopolized by a few players, giving the possibility even to these exercises which are normally penalized by the search algorithm of the apps themselves to be found, allowing them to be more easily identified by the user, given a QR or NFC code. The user could download only the part of the app required, for example, to order from a restaurant menu, or to compare prices and discounts in the shop they are visiting. In addition, Apple suggests using the App Clips in combination with some general Apple devices such as App ID and, of course, with Apple Pay, in order to eliminate two “complicated” procedures such as registration and entering payment information.

The limits of the clip.

Payment system and login are linked only to the kits offered by Apple (Universal Links or Url Scheme are not supported, i.e. those links that can be clicked from any browser that lead to internal app sessions). The app clips are unable to use background services, are unable to save information, access contacts, and files (Apple Music, Photo Library, Motion Data, HealthKit, Files, Contacts, and App Clip Calendar). Data sharing is only allowed between the Clip App and its main app. However, the latter is not necessarily just a limitation, as it has the advantage of not sharing sensitive data with third parties, nor allowing them to be stored for longer than strictly needed. Not having to fill out forms with your data as you must to for many free apps, and with all transactions taking place via Apple Pay, customers cannot be forced to share information with the app if they do not want to.

A strategic solution for business.

Rawfish is also beginning to explore the possibilities offered by this new technology, especially for what concerns apps to be connected to proximity mechanisms and the like, always from a commercial perspective aimed at promoting the entire app to users.

The feature makes sense for public-facing and non-personal IoT products, such as beverage/food dispensers, bike rentals, scooters, parking payments, and everything related to smart mobility. Other functions could be signing documents or demo versions of video games. It might also make sense to try out a streaming service or for one-shot content (see a movie or a game). Since many of them can be activated through QR or NFC they are immediately available, it will not even be necessary to search for them in the store.


Photos by Macitynet.it, ispazio.net e Apple.com