App Clips

In the last edition of RFS 100, I touched upon my interest in App Clips, the new SDK from Apple that enables fast and ephemeral applications in iOS 14. New development primitives are worth paying attention to, as they augment existing use cases (for App Clips, renting a scooter or paying for coffee) and introduce new user paradigms that expand and contour the market in interesting ways. With integrated payments & notifications, most existing native mobile apps actually fit the App Clip form.

App Clips are lightweight installations of apps, accessible without having to download a standalone app. Users can obtain them by scanning a visual code / NFC tag in a physical space or through a mobile web banner. Additionally, developers can integrate Apple Pay for quick payments and push notifications in an 8 hour window.

Apple emphasizes reduced functionality in their development guidelines, presenting App Clips as a return to the original vision of iOS apps, which were really meant to be utility-like supplements for PC applications. App Clips do have some detractors, as critics position them as a way for Apple to bring developers into a closed ecosystem, for use cases that were emerging on the “open” mobile web. I’ll spare you that debate for now.

I have a few ideas for folks interested in building in this space:

  • API Abstractions — Apple wants the App Clip development experience to be straightforward if a developer has a pre-existing app, but I still think there are design nuances for this new form factor. For example, RevenueCat has layered a simple abstraction, analytics, and cross-platform compatibility (React Native, Flutter, etc.) for a different iOS SDK, In-App Purchase.

  • Marketing & Attribution — While Apple would prefer that App Clips are not exclusively used for marketing, they still have merit as a distribution channel. Tools that help creators and developers understand how to design App Clips conversion, create funnels, and track conversions will be useful. They can also play nicely with an API like Radar.

  • Issuing Infrastructure for Tags — As noted earlier, App Clips are activated by scanning unique tags, either physical or digital. Apple still has to release detailed information on how to create these tags, but I think there are parallel opportunities with credit card issuing platforms like Marqueta i.e. programmatic infrastructure for App Clip tags (production, fulfillment, shipping all under the hood).

These are early days for the App Clips ecosystem, but I’m excited about what could materialize. If you’re building in the space, feel free to send me a note at aashay [at]