Wednesday, November 25, 2020

iOS Apps Not Available in the Mac App Store

Jason Snell:

If there’s a single disappointment in the release of Apple’s first wave of M1 Macs, it’s the lackluster launch of iOS apps running inside of macOS. What should be an amazing unification of Apple’s platforms and a massive expansion of the Mac software base is, instead… kind of a non-event.

Running iOS apps on the Mac can be a little weird, it’s true. But it can sometimes be good. Unfortunately, a lot of interesting iOS apps just aren’t available at all, because their developers have removed them from the Mac side of the iOS App Store.


But Apple’s biggest impact can come with the decisions it makes about hardware. The reason some iOS apps feel weird on the Mac is that they were designed for touch, not for a cursor and keyboard. Introducing Macs with touchscreens won’t change the Mac’s status as a mouse-first operating system, but it will offer alternate modes of input—and open up better compatibility with some iOS apps.

Juli Clover:

App developers can choose not to make their iPhone and iPad apps available on M1 Macs through the Mac App Store, and many popular apps like Netflix, Hulu, and others have made this choice. There is a workaround for installing these apps anyway, but it involves third-party software.

As it turns out, the M1 Macs are able to run any .ipa file, which is the format used for iOS apps. You need the .ipa file for an app to run it on an M1 Mac, and getting those files can be done through software like iMazing.


There is an alternative method that uses Apple’s free Apple Configurator 2 app, but does require you to use the Terminal to fix permissions. The instructions are detailed in this forum post.

Michael Love:

Man Apple screwed this up - “opt out of distributing your iOS app on Mac” except not really because anybody can run it without even modifying the binary (and without FairPlay).

Apple has pretty much ignored the issue of how to validate purchases. This could have been an advantage of the Mac App Store, with the system handling it automatically like on iOS. Instead, we got nine years of buggy sample code for receipt validation. And now no protections for apps that opt out of Mac support.


Update (2021-01-14): Filipe Espósito (via Michael Love):

Based on internal code that is shared between recent iOS 14.4 beta versions and macOS Big Sur 11.2, Apple is implementing a new system that will block some iOS apps from running on the Mac. This, of course, will not affect the apps available on the Mac App Store.

Instead, this should prevent users from installing iOS apps that the developer has chosen not to offer on the Mac App Store for M1 Macs.


Update: At least for now, macOS Big Sur 11.1 beta 2 still lets users sideload unsupported iOS apps on M1 Macs.

Update (2021-01-15): Chance Miller (tweet):

Earlier this week, 9to5Mac reported that Apple would soon start blocking users from side loading iPhone and iPad applications to their M1 Macs. Now, Apple has officially flipped the server-side switch to implement this change.

Update (2021-01-19): Chance Miller:

Interestingly, Apple has reverted the server-side change that blocked users from side loading iPhone and iPad apps to their M1 Mac.

So for now, you can keep side loading iPhone and iPad apps to your M1 Mac, but we don’t expect it to last.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Cue users expecting lower prices: "Well I bought your app on iOS and you charge $1, but now you want $40 on Mac? No, I'll just work around your wishes and pirate your ipa!"

@OUG: There might be some truth in that; that’s just how business works.

However, I also think vendors may not want their iOS apps automatically appearing on macOS simply because they *know* that user experience will be substandard and they don’t want to make a bad impression, nor deal with all the Support tickets and 1-star reviews that’d inevitably generate. Presumably as they update their iOS apps to be good cross-platform macOS citizens too they’ll turn the “Also show on macOS Store” option back on.

Seems a reasonable compromise between what the vendor wants and what the customer wants.

(Customers who are still dissatisfied are welcome to take their custom elsewhere, of course, as neither party *owes* the other anything; and that’s just business too.)

That's the dual of the developer's lament: "I have a cool $40 Mac app, and now you demand the same functionality with a whole new UI for iOS for only 99 cents? Screw that! I can't lower my income by 97.5% and still pay the rent. Maybe subscriptions *are* the answer."

@OUG You’d think that Apple Marketing would get the message that iOS and MacOS are different by the number of not-developed apps despite messaging of “easy to port over.”

I’m convinced that there’s no group that hates endusers and developers more than Apple Marketing. I don’t see Engineers (who start as devs), Support (close to end users), or legal (worried about class actions from devs or users) making decisions that take Apple 5 years or really bad press to recover from.

There’s got to be an organization within Apple (or any other big corp) that never seems to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions after many dull meetings. Now who could that be?

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