Quick and easy game demo shows why iOS 14’s App Clips are so cool

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App Clip
Apple’s Craig Federighi says that iOS 14’s App Clips are an easy way to discover more of what the App Store has to offer.
Screenshot: Apple

App Clips, a signature feature of iOS 14, lets you quickly run a lightweight version of an application without actually installing it. If that capability leaves you scratching your head about what, exactly, App Clips would be good for, a hot new game demo shows the appeal of this powerful feature.

Simply visit the webpage for Phoenix 2 using Safari on a device running iOS 14 or iPadOS 14. Then tap on the big Play button, and start gaming. The process takes less than 10 seconds, and you’re in the game. (Note: It does not work if you are running Safari in Private Browsing mode.)

If you decide you’re not interested, just close the demo and it’s gone. There’s nothing to uninstall because Phoenix 2 was never on your iPhone or iPad. It was just an App Clip.

See the appeal of iOS 14’s App Clips

At the big unveil of App Clips during the Worldwide Developers Conference last June, Apple did its best to show the benefits of the feature. “An App Clip is a small part of an app,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, at the event. “It’s light and fast and easy to discover, so you can quickly get what you need right when you need it.”

Still, the concept remained murky at best. Now that’s starting to change as we finally see App Clips in action in the real world.

That’s what makes Firi Games’ Phoenix 2 demo such a good example. The developer’s webpage also offers a brief description of the game and some images, but there’s no better way to let you know whether you want to play Phoenix 2 than to let you actually play the game. And that’s just what the App Clip does.

It’s not yet clear whether this creation of Apple’s will catch on, but it’s one game developers should leap on with both feet. After playing Phoenix 2 for a few minutes, I was much more interesting in downloading it than I was before. It reminds me of Galaxian, only updated for the 21st century.

Opening an App Clip is remarkably quick
The Phoenix 2 App Clip is easy to play, and quick to open because it can’t be bigger than 10 MB.
Screenshot: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Getting you over the hump

There are other situations where App Clips will shine, too. Let’s consider an example. You realize you have to walk half a mile to your destination. It’s a hot day but the trip is too short for a taxi. You spy a rental scooter. Saved! Then you realize it’s from a company you haven’t used before, you’ll have to download their application, set up an account, give them your credit card information … it’s easier to just walk, hot pavement be damned.

Consider this alternative. You walk up to the scooter, scan a bar code, open the App Clip, use Sign in with Apple, pay with Apple Pay, and start riding.

Or maybe you want to order take-out. Or buy something online from a small retailer. Quick and easy access to the core functionality of companies’ applications — without having to download them first — is the promise of App Clips.

For many people (me included), installing an iPhone application is too much of a commitment to make one transaction with a company they may never interact with again. Apple’s goal for App Clips is to give the advantages of using the app without the commitment.

Only time will tell if this stripped-down strategy pays off. Much will depend on whether companies will go to the hassle of creating App Clips. But game developers should commit. This technology is perfect for them.