The macOS App Store has been a handy companion to all Mac owners over the years. However, it has not really caught on in the same way that the App Store on iPhone’s and iPad’s has. While more developers have been using this as a gateway for app distribution, you still have to deal with Apple taking cuts from potential revenue.
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Another hang up is that it was not all-that-easy to distribute an app that was created for iOS onto the Mac. This required the app to be built from the ground up again, and while Catalyst helped to a certain extent, it didn’t seem to be enough. That has all changed with the new M1 chipset powering Apple’s late-2020 MacBook Air, Pro, and Mac mini. For the first time, you can download and install compatible iOS and iPadOS apps onto your Mac, giving you the best of both worlds.
How to install iOS and iPad apps on your Mac
Downloading iOS apps onto your Mac is just as simple you might expect, and there are two different ways to do so. The first method makes it possible for you to download compatible apps that are attached to your Apple ID after being downloaded on iOS or iPadOS.
- Open the App Store.
- In the sidebar, click your name and profile image.
- Under Account, select iPhone & iPad Apps.
- Download the apps you wish to add to your Mac.
The next method is more “natural” for many, as you can just search for them in the App Store. Apple has added a new filter that makes it possible for you to see apps of the same name designed for the Mac, or those that were only available on the iPhone and iPad.
- Open the App Store.
- Click the Search box in the sidebar.
- Search for the app you are trying to find.
- Under “Results for…”, click on iPhone & iPad Apps.
- Download the app.
It’s important to note that not every app will work and function as you might expect. Some apps cannot be resized, and there are still some growing pains for apps that previously focused on only having touch controls. That means you may run into some growing pains when trying to use a mouse and keyboard.
How to download an app that’s not in the Mac App Store
When you are searching for an app (like Gmail) on the Mac App Store, you may find that it’s not available. Although you’ve downloaded and used it on your iPhone and iPad, it’s up to Google’s discretion as to whether Gmail is available on the Mac. There could be a multitude of reasons for why an app won’t be made available, with the most likely culprit being that the app is just not optimized for a non-touchscreen device.
But thanks to an app, and an eagle-eyed user, that has been around for some time, iMazing, you can still “force” these apps to be installed. iMazing is a piece of recovery software that has come in handy for many who have needed to recover or transfer files from one iOS device to another. But with the new M1-powered Macs, there’s an unintended ability to install iOS apps directly to compatible Macs.
Export app from your iPhone or iPad to the Mac
- Open iMazing on your Mac.
- Plug in your iPhone or iPad to the Mac.
- Select your connected device from the side panel.
- Click Apps in the main window.
- Select Manage apps at the bottom of the window.
- Click Library in the Manage Apps panel.
- Click the cloud icon next to the iOS app you want to download.
- Right-click the app in the list.
- Select Export IPA from the drop-down menu.
After the app has been exported, it can be opened just like any other app on your Mac. There are two things to note about installing an app using iMazing.
What’s the catch?
First, you must be logged into the same Apple ID on both the iPhone and Mac that the app is being downloaded from/to. Secondly, if you come across an app that has yet to be updated with support for a mouse and keyboard, it may end up in a less-than-stellar experience. That’s because developers design these apps for touch input, which is a whole different ballgame compared to a mouse and keyboard.
Finally, the folks over at The Verge received an email from the CEO of DigiDNA, the parent company of iMazing. It seems this was not intentional and the company won’t stand in the way if Apple removes this workaround. Here’s the full statement:
“App management has been available in iMazing since November 2017. We did not do any particular adjustments to ensure that iOS apps exported from iMazing’s library would run on Apple Silicon Macs. It turns out that when developers choose whether or not to include their mobile app on the Mac App Store, no change is made to the app itself – the setting is purely a distribution toggle.
Hundreds of thousands of iMazing users depend on our app management feature to save bandwidth. Downloading an IPA just once and installing it multiple times saves time and energy, and is ecologically sound. We understand that developers wish to control which platforms their apps run on. We’re also hopeful that Apple can find a way to limit which OS can run a specific IPA without altogether removing our ability to download apps.”
So if you want to get those unsupported apps onto your Mac, you may want to act quickly. It could only be a matter of time before this workaround is closed down, leaving you with only apps available though the Mac App Store.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.