Applets, Mini Apps and Lite Apps - All You Need to Know

In this blog post we’ll explore the emerging world of lite apps, mini apps or applets and, more specifically, Apple's App Clips and Google's Google Play Instant. If you've ever wondered how this innovative technology works, read on.

What are mini apps like App Clips, and how do they work?

Essentially, App Clips and Instant Apps are tiny, interactive mini-applications designed to perform specific tasks without requiring you to download and install a full app on your phone. These smart little programs are useful shortcuts, conceived to help users access what they need quickly, without taking up valuable storage space on their devices.

Apple's App Clips and Google's Google Play Instant are examples of applets in action. With App Clips, iPhone users can experience a snippet of an app's functionality instantly. Similarly, Google Play Instant offers Android users a glimpse of an app's features right from the Play Store, giving a taste of what the app can do without committing to a full download.

Let’s delve into the benefits, functionality, and behind-the-scenes workings of these applets, demystifying the world of mobile technology and revealing how these innovations are shaping the future of app experiences.

Apple's App Clips Google's Google Play Instant
Apple-app-clips google-play-instant


Some use cases for App Clips and Google Play Instant

Here are some real-world scenarios that illustrate how applets can make your life easier.

Skip the queue

  • Airports - Scan a Code Clip for instant flight information and boarding details.
  • Hotels - Skip check-in queues with an applet and use an applet to order room services.
  • Restaurants - Customers can order and pay from their iOS devices using an applet.
  • Fun Fairs - Pay for entry fees with an applet.
  • Movie Theaters - Movie-goers who don’t have the movie app can purchase tickets from an applet.

Coupons and Loyalty Apps

  • Users can scan a receipt with an applet code to view earned reward points.  They can be advised the applet expires 8 hours after the last usage, prompting installation of the full app to retain their reward points.

Pros and cons of using App Clips or Google Play Instant

There are pros and cons using a mini app as opposed to a full-blown app, notably when it comes to the more detailed functionality of Apple's App Clips and Google's Google Play Instant. Let’s start with a couple of positives, then we’ll compare and contrast Apple and Google's offerings.

An effective marketing strategy

Applets can serve as an app marketing strategy, much like browsing through a movie trailer or test-driving a car before making the final purchasing decision. App Clips and Google Play Instant can be considered “light” apps that don’t have all the features of full-blown apps. These light apps allow users to access some app functionality instantly, giving them a taste that “encourages” them to engage with more fully featured products and apps later.

A non-intrusive, faster loading option

It should be noted that users are not forced into downloading the full-blown app and there are scenarios where an applet is actually more suitable than mobile-first web applications.

For example:

  • Applets offer a non-intrusive way to engage users without forcing app downloads.
  • Mobile-first web apps may have longer loading times and complex web page navigation, impacting user engagement negatively.
  • For mobile-first design apps, location services might not function optimally.

Apple vs Google - some important considerations

Applet implementation on iPhone (App Clips) and Android (Google Play Instant) differ in several aspects. On iPhone, App Clips are launched through NFC, QR codes, or Safari, offering a lightweight version of an app for quick and targeted tasks. Android's Google Play Instant allows users to try a full app without installing it, triggered by searches, NFC tags, QR codes, and simple URL links. 

When it comes to location services, iPhone's App Clips have your back with complete support. On the flip side, Google Instant Apps offer a bit less, with restricted permissions support for location services.

That's why it's a big deal to tackle this gap between the two. If your app relies on location services and you want everyone to have a smooth ride, it's important to bridge this difference. This way, whether you're team Apple or team Google, your users can enjoy your app to the fullest wherever they are!