Empowering Travel using Apple App Clips

Jonathan B. Ho
5 min readJan 20, 2022
A Busy Street Market Photo by Stanislav Rabunski on Unsplash

Apple App Clips

In 2017, Apple released a new feature with iOS 13.0 App Clips. As their name suggests, App Clips are miniature versions of an app that demonstrate a core feature of a more extensive app. Being able to encapsulate features of an app and ship it to users without requiring an App Store install is very powerful and effective if done correctly and applied in the correct ways. I think this functionality is incredibly cool, and I believe it will become a more significant part of how we experience apps in the future.

App Clips come with a host of features that make them very user and developer-friendly. App Clips can be installed in many ways: NFC tags, QR codes, through the maps app, sending the App Clip via iMessage, and even by clicking a link on a website. When a user installs an App Clip, it automatically gets 8 hours of notification permissions which can be helpful if being employed at a large event. App Clips also verify the location on installation as a security measure. There is no limit to how many App Clips can be added to an existing application project allowing custom experiences for any location. If a user already has the main app installed, the App Clip will launch directly into the full user experience. The power of App Clips opens the door to any number of possibilities and applications.

Problem Space

As of writing this, local Covid-19 restrictions have closed restaurants and shut down the border. However, when restaurants were open, many were not using menus anymore instead, falling back on black and white photocopies so they could be thrown out or hopefully recycled after each patron. Other restaurants had little QR codes on the table that patrons could scan with their phones, but only after trying to navigate a symptom screening form while standing at the hostess table. While I like the idea of making menus available via QR codes, the way that this system was implemented wasn’t always done in a user-friendly way. One restaurant had their QR code link directly to an AWS S3 storage bucket with a PDF version of the menu and without a domain name, which felt very weird to me. Another restaurant did a better job and hosted the PDF themselves, but it was still just a PDF; while effective, it does detract from the experience. Finally, a third restaurant built its menu as a mobile-friendly webpage. While I typically enjoy the standard ordering from a physical menu, I understand the need to migrate to other solutions, given the current state of affairs.

It has been well documented that many local businesses have been disproportionately hit by the negative economic impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic. While talking to a local restauranteur, he told me that through the pandemic, with ever-changing restrictions regarding local seating and sporadic closures, the restaurant’s net revenues were down 66%, and popular food delivery services aren’t enough to maintain normal levels of operation. As we move into 2022, we are slowly inching our way back to normalcy.

Before the pandemic, something many people liked to do was travel. But with worldwide border closures, the travel industry has been decimated. Many countries or regions are offering incentives to foreign nationals to come, visit and resurrect a very hard-hit tourism industry. When we travel to faraway lands, we want to experience local culture — not eat at the same multinational chain we can get at home, whose incredible revenue streams protected them from many of the adverse economic effects brought on by the pandemic. When we can travel again, we should be empowering these local businesses because eating locally while traveling is some of the best ways to experience a new culture.

Using technology to bridge the gap from traveler to local

I am creating a travel companion that will show users restaurants near their locations that locals love to help travelers make the most of their trips. Using App Clips, we can create on-premises custom features unique to each location, like translating a menu in Italian to English or helping communicate dietary restrictions to the staff to keep users safe while away from home. I want to help travelers maximize their trips.

You may have read that last paragraph and asked yourself, “Isn’t that just a Google Maps clone?” Where I aim to be different is a curation process.

Many people have heard of the exclusive Michelin stars that many chefs seek out as a badge of honor. The original purpose of this system was to be placed in Michelin’s (yes, the tire company) Road Guide book to help motorists while in France. It is a 3-star scale ranging from 1-star: “A very good restaurant in its category” to 3-star “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” Today a Michelin starred restaurant carries the connotation of being very fancy and using exotic ingredients to create new flavors and a larger price tag. Like the Michelin system, my goal is to help users navigate the flavors of the world; but instead of pursuing the heights of culinary technique, I want to focus on value for the user and authenticity to the region. Every restaurant identified should give me the same feeling I get after eating my Grandmother’s, who was born in the South of Italy, lasagna. At the core of every application is connecting users to data that is otherwise difficult to attain. I believe connecting people to delicious food is something people will want.

There will be an App Clip tag in each of the locations leading the user to a menu translated into their language and modest promotions available to travelers for using the application. Promotions to the users will be part of the price the restaurants incur to be included in the larger database and have access to the crowds of travelers itching to get away after being locked in for almost two years now. Once the pandemic ends, which some experts believe will be in 2024, I believe the travel industry will be resurgent.

Like everyone else, I am looking forward to being able to travel again.

If you like what you just read and would like to learn more, head on over to my site and reach out, I’d love to tell you more.