iOS on MacOS: How to run iPhone and iPad apps on your Mac

Apple offers iPhone, iPad, and Mac users a robust collection of apps, but those for iOS and iPadOS have long been confined to the App Store, while Mac owners use the Mac App Store for all their software needs.

That changed with the introduction of Apple Silicon. If your computer has Apple’s M1 or M2 chip, you can also use your favorite iPhone (and iPad) apps natively on your Mac. Just search the Mac App Store for the designation “Designed for iPhone” or “Designed for iPad”.

Accessing iPad and iPhone apps on a computer opens up a new world for photo editing, podcasting, gaming and more. Apps like Overcast and PhotoRoom can now bring the mobile experience to the bigger screen. It doesn’t take much work to bring some of your favorite programs to your Mac desktop or laptop. How to download your apps and configure the controls.

What you need to run mobile apps on a Mac

As seen in macOS Ventura (Source: Apple)

To run iPhone or iPad apps on your Mac, you need a machine with an Apple silicon chip inside. At this point, most computers that Apple sells contain some variation of the M1 or M2 chip, including:

MacBook Air from late 2020 and later

Mac mini from late 2020 and later

MacBook Pro 13-inch Late 2020 and later

MacBook Pro 14″ and 16″ from 2021 and later

iMac from 2021

Mac Studio from 2022 and later

To check your specific computer, click the Apple logo in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose About This Mac. In macOS Ventura and later, the chip label in the pop-up window shows either Apple or Intel. For older operating systems, check the processor label.

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How to install mobile apps on a Mac

(Image credit: Tyler Hayes)

To download iPhone and iPad apps on your Mac, launch the App Store on your computer and click your account name in the bottom left. This will show the apps you’ve downloaded and purchased through your account on different devices.

Select the text iPhone & iPad Apps to see all apps from these devices that can be installed on your Mac. Paid apps are free to download again, although some may require a current subscription to fully function.

Note that not all of your iPhone and iPad apps may be available for download. Developers have the option to opt-out of their apps being used on a Mac. For example, Instagram cannot be used on a laptop or desktop (but you can view your account over the web). Other apps may be available for download but may not have been fully tested by the developer, so they may not work properly.

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If you use Family Sharing for apps, you can also see apps downloaded by other people connected to your account. After clicking on the account name in the lower left corner of the App Store, right click on the same name to view other available apps.

Add touch alternative controls

Macs don’t have touchscreens (yet), so some of the controls may be slightly different than on a mobile device. To enable alternate touch controls, click the app name in the top left corner of the screen. Select Settings and enable touch alternatives. The chart displayed on the menu screen shows the options available, including the ability to tilt, swipe, and scroll. You can also select the Game Controls tab to enable this control via a gamepad.

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Can you use Mac apps on an iPad?

The short answer is no. You cannot run Mac apps natively on an iPad. A current workaround is to use remote access software like Screens(Opens in a new window) to view and edit your Mac screen on an iPad. It’s not a perfect solution, but at least it feels like you’re running Mac software on an iPad.

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