One of the big advantages of the new Apple Silicon Macs such as the M1 MacBook Pro and M2 MacBook Pro is that you can finally run iPad and iPhone apps on your Mac without the need for any emulation software.
That’s because the M1 and M2 chips in the latest generation of Macs are exactly the same as those Apple uses in iPads and iPhones.
For Netflix users that can’t watch Netflix offline on a Mac this is great news.
It also provides a way of playing the mobile version of games on a Mac such as Genshin Impact which aren’t available for macOS.
There are obviously a few usability differences compared to using the apps on a touch screen but in general, you can use the apps on macOS just as if you were using them on your iPad or iPhone.
Even better, if you’ve purchased an app on your iPad or iPhone, you can download it for free on your M1 or M2 Mac.
However, before you get too excited, the current situation for running iOS apps on a Mac isn’t quite as straightforward as it should be as we explain here.
Here then are the best ways to run iOS apps and games on a Mac including Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs.
1. Run iOS Apps On Mac By Sideloading (Big Sur 11.2.3 Or Earlier Only)
Initially when the first M1 Macs were released in 2020, Apple allowed users to “sideload” iOS apps into macOS via the Mac App Store.
You simply had to search the Mac App Store for the app or game you want to play on your M1/M2 Mac and then select “iPad and iPhone Apps” when the results appear.
Not all developers (such as Netflix and Hulu) allowed iOS apps to be sideloaded into M1/M2 Macs this way but many did.
However on January 19th 2021 Apple started disabling this feature in the Mac App Store meaning it is no longer possible to sideload apps into macOS.
As of macOS 11.3 Big Sur or later sideloading was completely disabled from the Mac App Store.
If you’re still running Big Sur 11.2.3 or earlier however, you can still sideload iOS games and apps onto your Mac this way.
The good news is, there are still ways to install iPhone and iPad apps on your Apple Silicon M1 or M2 Mac using third party software.
2. Install iOS Apps On Mac With PlayCover (M1/M2 Macs Only)
PlayCover is an open source project allows you to run iOS apps and games on Apple Silicon Macs with mouse, keyboard and controller support.
PlayCover only works on the latest versions of macOS Ventura and Monterey but not older versions of macOS such as Big Sur.
PlayCover basically works by putting applications in an iPad wrapper which allows the apps to run natively on Apple Silicon Macs.
PlayCover even allows you to map custom keyboard touch controls to keyboard which isn’t possible in other ways of running iOS apps a Mac.
PlayCover was originally invented to run Genshin Impact on a Mac and while it works with most games and apps, not all are supported and work properly.
For example, any games that use anti-cheat software such as Vanguard either don’t work on Playcover.
However the Netflix iOS app works in it meaning you can even watch Netflix offline on a Mac using PlayCover.
Here’s how to play iOS games and use iOS apps on an M1 or M2 Mac with PlayCover.
- Download PlayCover and double click on the DMG file.
- Drag PlayCover into your Applications folder.
- Double click on the PlayCover app to open it or Ctrl-click on it and select “Open”.
- Click “Open” when macOS warns you whether you want to open it.
- When you first run PlayCover you may have to install Xcode Command Line Tools if you’ve never installed it before.
- To complete the installation you need to authenticate with either Touch ID or your password on your Mac.
- You must then download what’s called the decrypted IPA file for your the iOS application you want to run on your Mac. These are only available from third party sites such as Decrypt and ARM Converter. PlayCover warns that it cannot verify the safety of these downloads so you download them at your own risk. For example, if you search for Netflix in Decrypt you are given the option to download the Netflix IPA file by clicking on Download Latest.
- You then simply drag and drop the decrypted IPA file into PlayCover to add it to your PlayCover App Library. You can then double click on the the ISO app or game on your Mac.
3. Install iOS Apps On Mac With iMazing (Big Sur 11.2.3 & Earlier Only)
After Apple initially blocked sideloading, it was still possible to install iOS apps on a Mac with iMazing.
However, iMazing no longer allows you to run iOS apps and games on the latest versions of macOS including Monterey and Ventura.
iMazing only allows you to run iOS apps on M1/M2 Macs running macOS Big Sur 11.2.3 or earlier. It does not work in macOS 11.3 or later such as Ventura and Monterey.
If you try to use iMazing on macOS 11.3 or later you will receive the error message “This application cannot be installed because the developer did not intend for it to run on this platform”.
So please ensure that you are running macOS Big Sur 11.2.3 or earlier to run iOS apps on an M1 or M2 Mac using iMazing.
You must also ensure that your Mac and iOS device are using the same Apple ID in order for this to work.
With this in mind, follow these instructions to run iPad and iPhone apps on your Mac even if they’re not appearing as available in the Mac App Store.
- Download and install iMazing.
- Plugin your iPhone or iPad to your Mac with iMazing running
- Select your iPad or iPhone in the left hand column in iMazing
- Click on the “Apps” icon for the iPad or iPhone
- Click “Manage Apps” on the right of the screen
- Choose “Library” in the Manage Apps screen
- Click the cloud icon next to the iOS app you want to use (such as Instagram) to download it
- Right-click on the app and select “Export IPA”
You now simply download and run the IPA app on your M1/M2 Mac and it will install automatically.
There is another way to extract IPAs using Apple Configurator app but it’s far more complicated than using iMazing.
Of course the main problem is that Macs don’t have touch screens like iOS devices do. To get round this there are “Touch Alternatives” in macOS that you can use to substitute touchscreen actions.
The ability to run iOS apps on macOS was not originally one of iMazing’s features but it’s just a happy coincidence that this works with the new M1/M2 Macs running Big Sur 11.2.3 or earlier.
It’s possible that the App Store may block apps like iMazing from doing this in future but at the moment it works perfectly well.
iMazing is well worth having anyway as an alternative to using iTunes to manage your iPad or iPhone as you can see below.