Earlier today, MacRumors reported that it is possible to run any iOS application you have purchased on an M1-based Mac, as long as you have access to the right file. Sure enough, if you bought or downloaded an app for your iPhone or iPad, you can run it on an M1-based Mac – I’m currently looking at the iOS versions of Dark Sky, Spotify, Slack, Netflix, and Gmail on this MacBook Air.
Running some of these applications, it is quite clear in some cases why these developers did not immediately make them available for the Mac on the Mac App Store. Netflix, for example, is inside a window and cannot be resized or full screen (but it works, and you can even download videos for offline viewing). Instagram is relatively small on the screen, but it also works well, you can post and it seems to fit the right photo library and camera permissions. Many of these applications require Apple’s “Touch Alternatives” system to function.
To get these applications running, you just need to get the application files, which are simply packages with the .IPA file extension. And these files need to be associated with your Apple ID, so you can’t just share them with others.
Long ago, IPA files were easy to find in an unencrypted iTunes backup, but that is no longer the case. Instead, you can use a long-standing Mac application called iMazing to download legitimately purchased IPA files to your Mac. Just double click on them and they will be installed in the applications folder like any other application, as long as the Mac and iPhone have the same Apple ID.
1. Mac plug-in device with iMazing running
2. Select “Apps” for the iPhone connected to your Mac
3. Select “Manage applications” on the tabs at the bottom
4. Select “Library” on the application management screen
5. Download the apps you want
6. Right-click the downloaded application in the list -> Export ipa
7. Double-click the .ipa file on an M1 Mac to perform the installation.
Having found some bugs with previous versions of iOS apps myself before the review, I will say that there are very likely to be even more bugs with this method – both within some of these apps and possibly even with your macOS system. This is more something to play with than something you should consider for any important application you use.
Apple’s policy is that the only approved way to install iOS apps is to get them from the Mac App Store and the only way for developers to distribute iOS apps to Mac users is through that same store. Which means that this method may or may not continue to work in the future.