iOS 14: Apple developing ‘Clips’ feature for using apps without requiring full downloads

Apple is working on a new way to offer specific parts of third-party apps across the system without needing to have them installed, 9to5Mac has learned based on an early build of iOS 14. The feature would allow users to experience parts of an app’s functionality by scanning a QR Code. 

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If you open a link or scan a QR code today from an app that you haven’t installed on your iPhone or iPad, it will open that link in Safari. Apps can provide universal links, which open the app instead of Safari when the app is installed. But that could change in the near future with a new API internally referred to as “Clips” found on iOS 14 code. 

As 9to5Mac has analyzed this new API, we can say that it allows developers to offer interactive and dynamic content from their apps even if you haven’t installed them. The Clips API is directly related to the QR Code reader in the build we have access to, so the user can scan a code linked to an app and then interact with it directly from a card that will appear on the screen. 

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Let’s say you get a QR Code with a link to a video from YouTube but you don’t have the official app installed on your iPhone. With iOS 14 and the Clip API, you’ll be able to scan that code and the video will be reproduced on a floating card that shows a native user interface instead of a web page. 

Developers will need to specify which part of the app should be downloaded by iOS as an Over-The-Air package to read that content. The floating card will show options to download the full version of the app from the App Store or to open that content with the app if it’s already installed. 

Android has a similar feature called “Slices”, which shows interactive parts of an app in places like the Google Search results and Google Assistant, so we can also imagine such integration with the Clip API and Apple’s Spotlight — although the iOS 14 beta code only mentions that it works by QR Code. 

Our code findings also reveals that Apple is testing the new feature with OpenTable, Yelp, DoorDash, Sony (with its PS4 Second Screen app), and YouTube to implement the new API, possibly to use their apps as examples in WWDC demos. 

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