App Clips for iPhone
Apple

App Clips offer app-like functionality on your iPhone (or iPad) without downloading an entire app. They have all sorts of uses, from previewing apps and games, to paying for parking and other goods. Here’s how they work.

What Are App Clips?

Introduced with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, App Clips allow you to run an application without having to download it from the App Store first. They’re cut down, lightweight versions of apps that download on the fly. If you like the look of an app, or you want to use it again, you also have the option of downloading it to your device permanently.

Unwind iPhone App Clip

App Clips can be especially useful because functions like Apple Pay are fully supported. This allows you to launch an App Clip, make a purchase, and then carry on with your day. Without App Clips, you have to launch the App Store, search for the app, authenticate to install it, launch it, and then possibly still have to sign up.

When you simply need to pay for parking or rent a bicycle, this is inconvenient. With App Clips, the whole process is streamlined thanks to the multiple ways you can access them, both via the web and in the real world.

Where to Find App Clips

Many websites offer counterpart iPhone apps that are advertised at the top of the screen whenever you visit that website from your smartphone. If an app supports App Clips, you’ll see an option to “Open” the App Clip at the top, like the Unwind mindfulness app, shown below.

Safari App Clip Banner

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Direct links to App Clips are also available. Some apps, like Messages, have integrated a full description of clips in the preview.

App Clips can also be found in the real world on things like parking meters and fuel pumps. Apple has launched its own App Clip codes you can scan with your iPhone’s camera. There’s also support for Quick Response (QR) codes (also scanned by the camera) and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags. The latter work when your iPhone comes within close proximity to them.

When you trigger an App Clip, an overlay appears at the bottom of the screen. It’s similar to what appears when you install an app from the App Store. Tap “Open” and the app will fetch any necessary data. This process can happen instantly or take about 30 seconds, depending on the app and your connection.

App Clip Overlay in iOS 14

With the App Clip open, you can do whatever you need to do, whether it’s paying for goods via Apple Pay or testing out a game before you buy it. Any apps that require a login can do so via Apple for instant, anonymous access.

Some App Clips also include a link where you can download the full version of an app, but others don’t. Some will prompt you to download the full version when you hit the limits of the App Clip, such as finishing a level of a game.

Recall App Clips from the App Library

You can find App Clips you’ve used recently in the App Library on the last page of your iPhone Home screen. Scroll to the bottom to see any currently available App Clips. According to Apple, these are removed automatically after a period of inactivity, but how long that is hasn’t been specified.

App Clip in App Library

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It’s impossible to delete App Clips manually from this list like you would a standard app. After you download the full version of an app, though, it’s that version, not the App Clip, that will launch. This is true even if you scan an App Clip or QR code, or tap an NFC tag.

If you’re excited about how App Clips might change how you download software, check out how iOS 14 widgets can transform your iPhone’s Home screen.

RELATED: How to Use the App Library on iPhone

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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