Monday, March 8, 2021
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App Clips: How to Use iPhone Apps Without Downloading Them

(Image: Apple)

One inevitable issue all iPhone users face is a crowded home screen. To cut down on app overload, Apple introduced App Clips in iOS 14, which lets users try out an app’s basic functionality without fully downloading it.

Think of App Clips as the halfway point between a mobile website and a full app download. Based on your location or what you’re doing on your iPhone, App Clips will reveal themselves as a quick option to handle a simple task like making a reservation, scheduling an appointment, hailing a ride share, or submitting a takeout order. 

You’ll have to hunt around to find apps that support App Clips, but here’s how it works.

How to Use App Clips

I used Apple Maps to search for local businesses that offered App Clips integration, and stumbled on a local Panera Bread, which offered me directions to the location and presented me with an Order Food option on its Apple Maps listing.

panera bread app clip

Tapping the Order Food option presented the App Clip as well as an option to download the official app. After opening the App Clip, I was taken to a limited menu where I was able to select a sandwich and other items. Of course, it was recommended that in order to see the full menu, I should download the official app. 

I ignored that message and completed my order. I was then able to select a pickup option, and pay with Apple Pay. Since Apple Pay already had my basic information (name, address, phone number, etc), I did not have to fill out a customer form—all of the required information was copied over to the bill, and I was given a pickup time for my order.

If you find you need to re-use the service, Apple saves a copy of the App Clip to your “Recently Added” App Library folder. It will be automatically removed after 30 days, but you can go to the App Clips section of your iPhone settings to either delete your App Clips sooner or download the official app.

app clip settings

Compared to waiting for an app to download, or searching through a mobile-friendly website—and then creating a separate Panera account—the App Clip was simple and easy with just enough information to complete my task with pre-populated information from Apple Pay to speed up the process.

While not all businesses will use App Clips this exact way, it will be interesting to see how businesses will integrate App Clips into their mobile strategy.

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