What Are Apple App Clips?

A guide to the company's lightweight iOS apps

App Clips give you the features of an app for just one use, without taking the time to download a full app and set up an account. The App Clips feature delivers just the right features of an app to you exactly when you need it, quickly and securely. Here's what you need to know about App Clips.

App Clips are not the same thing as the Apple-made app named Clips. It's confusing, we know! Luckily, we've got all the details on the not-related-to-App-Clips app named Clips.

What Is an iPhone App Clip?

App Clips are a feature of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 and up. They deliver small pieces of functionality from an app to you when you need them without forcing you to download the entire app.

Screenshots of Apple's App Clips feature on iPhone
Apple Inc.

Think of it this way: Let's say you want to rent a scooter or bike from one of those roadside kiosks. With an App Clip, you don't have to download the full app. Instead, you just download a small part of the larger app which includes only the features you need right then (creating an account, paying, and unlocking the scooter or bike). With the App Clip, you'll be done much faster, and with less data used, than with a normal app.

App Clips work on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

App Clips are essentially Apple's answer to Google Instant Apps, which have been available on Android since 2018.

How Do I Get an iOS App Clip?

The Apple App Clip code shortcut icon
Apple Inc.

Since App Clips require iOS 14 or iPadOS 14, you can't get them until those OS versions are released in fall 2020 (though you can try them early with Apple's free Public Beta Program).

Once they're available, though, there will be a bunch of ways to get App Clips:

  • App Clip code: The image above shows Apple's new App Clip code. When you see one of these symbols in a store or at a location, just scan it with your device's Camera app and you'll be prompted to install the App Clip linked to the code.
  • QR code: Boring old QR codes can be used to trigger App Clip downloads.
  • NFC: For iPhones with Near-Field Communication (NFC) wireless chips—that's the iPhone 6 series and newer—tapping your iPhone on an NFC-enabled location will prompt an App Clip download.
  • Geo-location in Maps: App Clips can also be tied to specific locations. So, if you're checking out a store, transportation, facility, museum, or other location the Apple Maps app, an App Clip could be suggested to you.
  • Safari and Messages: Websites in Safari can prompt you to download an App Clip. App Clips can also be shared via the Messages app.

Will I Have a Ton of App Clips Cluttering up My iPhone or iPad?

No. First of all, App Clips can only be a maximum of 10 MB. This ensures they'll download quickly (after all, quick access to a feature is the main goal here), but also that they won't take up a lot of space on your device.

Even better, the 10 MB App Clip is automatically deleted from your device 30 days after you download it (though you'll be able to manually delete App Clips the same way you delete apps, too).

Do I Need an Account to Use App Clips?

Most of the scenarios in which you'd use an App Clip would also require creating an account if you were using a full app. But if App Clips are supposed to be faster and easier than full apps, how does creating an account work?

App Clips use Apple's Sign In With Apple feature, which was introduced in iOS 13. This feature lets you create secure, private, one-off accounts with just one button tap. Sign In With Apple accounts are protected by Touch ID or Face ID, so you'll just tap the account button, authenticate yourself, and your account will be up and running.

How Do I Make Payments with App Clips?

App Clips will use Apple Pay for in-app payments. So, you won't need to enter any new payment information or perform any additional payment verification steps to use App Clips. Just use Apple Pay like normal and the payment card on file in your Apple ID will be charged.

How Do I Find App Clips on My iPhone or iPad?

Screenshot of the iOS 14 App Library Screen
Apple Inc. 

Also introduced in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 is an App Library feature which makes it easy to browse through the apps installed on your device. App Clips will be sorted into categories there, and also available in the Recently Added section.