App Clips in iOS 14: You can stop downloading iPhone apps you only use once


Soon, you won’t have to download an app to try it on your iPhone. 

Angela Lang/CNET

When Apple releases iOS 14 later this year, you’re going to notice some pretty big changes to how you use your iPhone ($699 at Apple). For example, you’ll be able to place widgets on your homescreen, and there’s a new app drawer and new privacy controls. 

Apple is also introducing a new way for you to interact with apps called App Clips. They’re similar to Android’s Instant apps, which are small app “slices” that offer a subset of features you can normally only access after downloading the entire app and, in many cases, signing in. 

You’ll be able to use App Clips to do things like quickly buy a cup of coffee, place a reservation at your favorite restaurant or set up your new robot vacuum cleaner, all without having to install a new app every time. 

Let’s take a closer look at what App Clips are, how you’ll add them and what all they can do. 


App Clips are all about speed and convenience. When you really need access to an app you don’t have, you no longer have to download it and wait for it to install.


What are App Clips for iPhone?

Think of App Clips as miniature apps, offering the core functionality of a larger app.

For example, the current process to do something like unlocking an electric scooter requires you to find that company’s app in the App Store, download it, create an account and then enter your payment information. It’s a process that takes several minutes and isn’t very convenient. 

With an App Clip, however, you’d only need to scan a QR Code or tap your phone against an NFC tag on the scooter you want to rent, for example, to display a small card on your iPhone. 

Then, instead of giving access to the full app’s functionality, such as a map of where all available scooters are, the App Clip will only include whatever’s necessary to unlock and rent the scooter. It will draw on Apple Pay to verify and secure your payment. 


Sign in with Apple makes it easy to create a new account within an app. 

Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

If it’s not the full app, how do I create an account?

Clips will use Apple’s “Sign in with Apple” feature, which made its debut last year with the release of iOS 13. The service creates an account for you, linking it to your Apple ID, forgoing the need for you to come up with a new password. And if you want, it can even hide your email address from the service, keeping your personal information private, and keeping you from potentially getting more email spam. 

How do you make payments in App Clips?

App Clips will use any debit or credit cards you’ve added to Apple Pay. 

How do you add an App Clip?

Adding an App Clip to your iPhone can be done using a number of different ways. In Apple’s keynote video, Apple demonstrated adding a Clip from a website, in an iMessage conversation, on a business listing in Apple Maps or by touching your phone to an NFC tag or scanning a QR code with the Camera app. 

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Apple also created specialized App Clip codes that let you know it’ll add the miniaturized version of the app if you scan it. 

After viewing the info of an App Clip, which pops up from the bottom of your screen as a small card, you can tap on Open to add the Clip to your phone.

Once a Clip is added to your phone, you won’t have to add it to your iPhone the next time you want to use it, unless, of course, you deleted it after you were done. 


App Clip codes are going to be everywhere soon. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Where do I find App Clips I’ve added?

App Clips won’t clutter up your homescreen as regular app icons do. Instead, you’ll be able to find them in the new App Library that’s also making its debut in iOS 14

The App Library acts like an app drawer, organizing any installed apps and clips into folders based on category. 


The App Library in iOS 14 will hide your App Clips. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

What are App Clips useful for?

You’ll be able to use App Clips to join the waitlist at a nearby restaurant, make a reservation or even go through the initial setup process for a connected device like an Instant Pot or smart light bulb. 

It’s up to developers to come up with new ways for you to use App Clips with their apps. Maybe you’ll be able to use App Clips to find out which song is playing, try out a new photo filter or to upload a quick video to a social network.


You can use App Clips to view all sorts of information. 


Am I stuck with just an App Clip? Or can I upgrade to the full app?

At any time you can download and install the full app if you need to do more than what the App Clip provides. For instance, if after setting up your smart light bulb you want to connect it to other services or take full control, you could then install the full app from the App Store. 

There’s still a lot to learn about App Clips. Apple will release iOS 14 this fall, but if you have a developer account you can help test the beta right now. We’ve been testing it and have found a handful of features we love, including the new customizable widget and some features nobody is talking about right now

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