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If you don't install iPhone apps on the M1 MacBook Air, Pro, Mini, you're missing out

Apple's new Macs can run the same apps that you use on your iPhone. Here's what you need to know.

Apple's new M1-powered MacBooks can run iPhone and iPad apps. 
Dan Ackerman/CNET

Did you know that some of Apple's Macs will now let you run the same exact apps you currently use on your iPhone and iPad? That's thanks to the new Apple silicon processor, the M1, that's now used in the 2020 models of the MacBook AirMacBook Pro and Mac Mini. It's one of several benefits to the Mac platform due to Apple's move away from Intel chips, including longer battery life and better performance. 

I use it daily to check the weather in Dark Sky, use the Instagram app (and yes, you can post with it) or monitor my Wyze camera feed. These are all tasks I normally would have to reach for my phone to do, but now can be done directly on my MacBook Pro ($1,699 at eBay).

Note that you don't get full-out access to any iPhone ($300 at Amazon) app in the App Store. Developers have to opt in to allow their apps to be installed on a Mac after they've optimized the experience for Apple computers with the M1 processor. That means not every app will be available right now, but the library of compatible programs is sure to expand as developers work on adopting the new technology. 

If you're using one of Apple's new M1 Macs and want to get more out of your new computer, here's how to install iPhone or iPad ($194 at Amazon) apps, including a temporary workaround for apps that aren't listed in the Mac App Store (this will not break your Apple warranty and is considered safe). 


iPhone and iPad apps aren't included in the default search results. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use Mac App Store search

There are two different ways to find iPhone and iPad apps in the Mac App Store. The first is by using the search box and entering the name of the app you want to install. However, the search results default to Mac apps, so after entering your search terms you'll need to click on iPhone and iPad Apps at the top of the results. 

Easy enough, right? But you'll find it's often difficult to find the apps you're looking for. 


There's another way to find apps you can't easily find in search. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Download apps you already own

The other method will allow you to install apps you've previously downloaded on your iPhone or iPad, some of which are available even if they don't show up in the Mac search results. 

Open the Mac App Store and click on your name in the lower-left corner. You'll then see a list of the previously downloaded or purchased Mac apps linked to your Apple ID. Click on iPhone & iPad Apps to switch the view to apps you've installed on your phone or tablet. 

Unfortunately, there isn't a search feature, so if you've downloaded a lot of apps over the years, you'll have to scroll through the list until you find what you're looking for. The apps are listed in chronological order, with the most recent apps at top. 


The M1 Mac Mini is small but powerful. 


What about sideloading apps you can't find in the App Store?

There is a workaround here too, but before we dig into the details, you need to know that it's not an official method, and there are already reports that Apple is actively trying to block unauthorized installations. Both 9to5Mac and The Verge have reported that Apple is currently blocking this method, however, when I tried it a few days after those reports were published, I was able to successfully install several new apps, including the official Tesla app that does not offer M1 support. 

That said, it's clear Apple will eventually bar this workaround. If you start to experience issues with installation, it's best to wait for the developer to add official support. 

With that said, here's how to install apps like Instagram on your Mac, thanks to Reddit user probablyamy

1. Download and install iMazing. You can use the free trial to test this method out before buying the app.

2. Open iMazing and connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac. Approve the connection if prompted, and skip the backup when prompted.

3. Click on your device name on the left side of the window to reveal a list of options.

4. Select Apps and wait for it to load all of the apps installed on your device.

5. Click Manage Apps at the bottom of the iMazing window.

6. Enter your Apple ID password when asked.


iMazing will download a copy of an iPhone or iPad app directly to your Mac. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

7. Click Library at the top of the list of installed apps.

8. Go through the list and download the apps you want to install on your Mac.

9. After an app is downloaded, right-click on it in the list and select Export IPA.

10. Select a location to save the IPA file when Finder prompts you, then click Save. I suggest creating a folder on your desktop and saving the files there. Repeat that process for every app you've downloaded.

11. Finally, double-click the IPA file and your Mac will install the app and even add it directly to your Applications folder. 

Once that's done, you can open the app and use it as you would any other app on your Mac. I've installed a few apps using the iMazing method, and it's a breeze. The apps can  have some issues, especially with presenting alerts and prompts for permissions, but they're usable. 

Even after Apple widely blocks installations, it appears you'll still have access to the apps you've already installed. And, perhaps, even have the option to install those apps again. Apple's attempt to block sideloading of apps appears to only focus on new installations. Again, your mileage may vary. 

MacOS 11 Big Sur added plenty of features to all Macs, not just the M1-based computers. If you're on the fence about getting one of the new Macs, be sure to read CNET's review. Or if you want to squeeze a bit more life out of the Mac you currently have, then make sure to read this