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Clips is the next best thing to animojis for iPhone X

Apple's Clips video app adds some iPhone X tricks, Star Wars-themed animated stickers and titles, and a lot more.

Scott Stein/CNET

Hey, I'm on the Millennium Falcon! I'm a hologram. BB-8 is spinning around behind me. I snap a quick square video of myself, add captions and titles. It's a bit like a personal green screen.

If you've got an iPhone X, Apple's Clips app gets some fun new tricks.

The free app, an iOS exclusive from Apple first released back in April, is a cross between Instagram and Apple's iMovie editing tool: it's a pretty deep app that helps you make fun, square-shaped videos out of short editable clips on iPhones and iPads. My first hands-on with Clips was entertaining, and the new 2.0 update, which hits the App Store today, adds a lot of extras for free.

For iPhone X owners, new visual effects using the TrueDepth camera are something fun to play around with while you wait for more X-optimized camera apps to arrive.

Now Playing: Watch this: iPhone X gets new camera tricks with Apple Clips
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There are also a bunch of new video filters, stickers, expanded emoji access, and impressive (and free) added soundtracks: Mark Mothersbaugh fans will be happy to know he's got a handful of tracks on tap. Disney has added a bunch of Star Wars stickers and title effects, too.

It's also gotten an interface upgrade. The button layouts have changed. Editing tools are (sometimes) easier to access.

What does it all add up to? A busy and sometimes hard to navigate app that's weirdly entertaining to play around with, and is deeper than you might think.

I've been playing around with it for about a week in a prerelease version. Check out my hands-on video of the app, made with Clips, above.

clips-2-iphone-2

Scenes is a new iPhone X-only mode, but I'm watching the results on an iPhone 8 Plus.

Scott Stein/CNET

iPhone X effects explore some new ideas

Clips' cleverest new feature, Scenes, is iPhone X only. It takes advantage of the 3D TrueDepth selfie camera to separate faces from backgrounds, adding different scene settings. Visual filters and backgrounds include a sketch-styled Paris, a Bladerunner-like city, an 8-bit gameworld, and a few others.

The overlay of my face onto these 360-degree backgrounds is a little messy, sometimes, with a lot of weird fringe around my face. The app addresses this by creating heavy filter effects. When you're a glowing Star Wars hologram, it's OK if your edges are rough.

It would be really interesting if Clips let you upload your own 360-degree videos and superimpose your talking head into them, but no dice. You're limited to the effects in the app. Will future extensions or add-ons come down the road? Hard to tell.

Clips doesn't have built-in animojis, alas. Maybe in the future. You could always add your saved animoji clip into Clips, like I did. It's not quite the same, though.

Hopefully Clips and iMovie will merge, someday

Apple says Clips has been a big success in schools, where its simpler editing style allows for impactful videos on phones without diving into the more confusing iMovie. Clips remains an outlier from iMovie, a different type of video app. Every time I use it I'm impressed at some of its features, including the clever live-transcribing Live Titles. But I wish its ideas integrated with iMovie.

Clips remains an app for square videos, meaning that some projects just won't work. I'd love to use it to make videos at events, but I'd only do that when square videos apply.

Still, Clips is free, fun and full of clever tricks. My early test had a few crashes, however, which will hopefully be addressed in updates. And its new Scenes modes are at least another fun way to explore the iPhone X TrueDepth camera in action.

Note to Apple: please add animojis next time. Their absence here is a total missed opportunity.

iPhone X review: Read our rated review of Apple's latest, greatest iPhone

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