How to Installing Apps for iPhone and iPad Based on Apple Silicon Mac

By | November 18, 2020

Apple Silicon Macs can run many iPad and iPhone apps as they are and can be used by Mac users in the Mac App Store. Find out how iPad and iPhone apps work on Apple Silicon Macs and what makes them better. Learn how to test Mac apps and find software distribution options.

Apple Silicon Macs with M1 processors can run apps built for iPhone and iPad. Learn how to find and download what you are looking for and what the restrictions are?

Apple released the first Mac to run Apple Silicon for customers, which can run applications built for Apple’s three major platforms. Each app works with some system limitation, but it should be in roughly the same environment as on your iPhone or iPad.

There is no migration process, but I still recommend updating your code to improve the user experience when running your app on macOS. Bringing the latest iOS features into your app makes it easy to migrate to macOS as the latest features are automatically mapped to the appropriate macOS behavior.

Overview

IOS apps on Mac run unmodified iPhone and iPad apps on Apple Silicon without any migration process. The application uses the same structure and infrastructure as the Mac Catalyst application, but does not need to be recompiled for the Mac platform.

In some cases, you may not be able to run all of your apps on macOS. For example, you might not run an app on macOS if you already have a macOS app or if the app uses a feature that’s only available on iOS devices.

Notes: You can run iOS apps unchanged on Mac using Apple Silicon, but Mac Catalyst lets you build apps specifically for macOS and customize app behavior on those platforms. In addition, Mac Catalyst supports deployment to both Apple Silicon Macs and Intel-based Macs. For more information on building applications with Mac Catalyst, see Mac Catalyst.

For the latest information on running iOS and iPadOS apps on macOS, see the macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Release Notes.

Check if the Apps makes sense on macOS

iOS and macOS support many of the same frameworks and features, and most iOS apps work seamlessly on macOS. However, you can opt out of running iOS apps on macOS if:

  • I’ve already created a Mac version of my app using AppKit or Mac Catalyst.
  • The app relies heavily on iOS hardware not available on the Mac, such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, depth camera, or GPS.
  • Your application needs a structure, symbol, or function that your Mac doesn’t have.
  • Interaction with an app relies heavily on touch input, which cannot be reproduced using the keyboard or other input.
  • You don’t want users to access the contents of your app package or data container.
  • Applications interact with configurable hardware using external supporting infrastructure.

Find and download the Apps

Mac computers have their own app store, which works the same way as the app store on iOS and iPadOS. Apps submitted to the Mac App Store must be verified by Apple and must comply with certain security and privacy policies and guidelines. The software catalog has expanded significantly with the addition of iPhone and iPad apps to the Mac App Store.

Searching for the Apps

  • Open the Mac App Store
  • Click on the search bar in the top left corner
  • Search for an app like “Office”
  • Results will default to Mac apps
  • Click on “iPhone and iPad apps” to see results in that category

The apps that appear in the search results depend on what the developer has to offer. Several developers, including Google, Facebook and King, have declined to offer Mac apps.

Some developers offer many applications at different prices for different platforms such as Airmail or Microsoft. If true, the Mac App Store will only show results for Mac apps. For example, Microsoft Word is available on all Apple platforms, but the developers have a Mac-only version. It’s unclear if these search results are an automatic feature of the App Store, or if multiplatform app developers aren’t sharing iPad apps on Mac.

Runs the iPad Apps based on M1 processor

When you download the iPad app, you’ll notice that it launches in a small window with basic Mac controls. You can hover over the element and trigger some events as expected, but not everything works smoothly by default. Developers need to optimize their applications for mouse and keyboard interaction before the application is built into the Mac.

The iPad app has the same traffic light button in the window with the same controls as the Mac app. You can also minimize apps to the Dock, make them full screen, or even launch a split screen.

IPad app windows can be resized to different sizes, but they are not as divided as Mac app windows.

Runs the iPhone Apps based on M1 processor

You can also launch the iPhone app, but only if you don’t have an iPad version. IPhone apps open in small windows, such as Utilities or Tools, with some limited functionality.

IPhone apps cannot be resized or moved to full screen or split screen. The traffic light button does nothing except minimize the window or close the application.

Porting a touch app to a Mac that doesn’t yet have a touch screen degrades app performance slightly. Many games and applications use multi-touch gestures that do not translate directly into mouse gestures. Apple addresses this issue by giving users a long key press when performing multi-touch gestures on a trackpad.

Test your Apps on macOS

Xcode natively supports debugging, testing, and profiling iOS applications on Macs using Apple Silicon. When you open an iOS project in Xcode 12 or later, you have the option to create an app and run it directly on macOS. This option does not launch the application in the simulator. It works like an iOS Mac app. Then you can check if the application is working as expected.

The iOS App Store feature will continue to work when the following apps are launched on macOS.

  • In-app purchases and subscriptions
  • App capabilities and entitlements
  • On-demand resources
  • App thinning

When you use app reduction to optimize apps for different devices and operating systems, the App Store selects the resources and content that work best for your Mac. Then remove other resources to optimize app installation. When exporting your app from Xcode 12 or later, you can test the thinning support using the Mac Virtual Thinning Target.

TestFlight is not available on macOS. When your application is ready to be distributed to users, create an archive and export it using custom or development distribution methods. During the export process, Xcode creates a properly signed app for distribution to testers. For more information, see Distributing applications to registered devices.

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