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How to run iPad apps on the new, upcoming Mac computers or using an emulator app

  • You can’t natively run iPad apps on a Mac computer without using an emulator, though that will change with a new generation of Macs, set to come out by the end of 2020.
  • The new Macs will run on new Apple-designed chips that are similar to the ARM chips in iPadOS devices, making them compatible.
  • Older Intel-based Macs can’t run iPad apps without an emulator, which isn’t easy to use and has many limitations.
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

If you want to run apps from your iPad on a Mac, the traditional answer is that you can't – at least not ordinarily. There is an exception — you can use an iPadOS emulator on your Mac. Read more about that below. But at this time, iPad apps are fundamentally incompatible with the architecture and operating system on a Mac computer. That is changing, though.

You'll be able to run iPad apps on some Macs soon

At the beginning of 2020, Apple announced that it would soon start to produce Mac computers with its own Apple-designed chipsets, abandoning the Intel chips it has used for many years. When it does this, the new Macs — which will share a similar architecture to iPadOS devices — will be able to run iPad apps.

Apple has made its own ARM-based chips for iOS and iPadOS devices for years. ARM chipsets are characterized as low-power processors commonly found in mobile devices like phones, tablets, and some laptops, optimized to deliver the best battery life. Starting late in 2020, Apple is expecting to release MacBooks and other Mac computers with similar high-performance ARM chips. 

Because of the similar architecture, Apple has already announced that this will allow Apple computers to natively run iPad apps with no further changes or modifications. You'll be able to install iPad apps directly from the Mac's app store. 

The exact timing is uncertain, but the first of these new Macs are expected before the end of 2020. Keep in mind that for quite some time to come, there will be both Intel chipset and Apple chipset Macs around, and only the ones with Apple chipsets will be able to run iPad apps. This might be a little confusing until most Intel-based Macs have been retired.

Running iPad apps with an emulator

The new Macs may be coming soon, but that's not the entire story. Because software developers need to be able to test iPadOS apps quickly and easily, they sometimes use emulator software to run iPad apps on their Macs. 

There are a handful of emulators available for the Mac that can run iPad apps, but these programs are not easy to install or manage, and it's generally not possible to install apps from the Apple App Store – you're limited to just apps you developed yourself and have stored locally. One of the most common emulators to use is Xcode, which is a simulator offered by Apple.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

  • How to get to the App Store on your Apple TV device, if it has one

  • How to use your iPad as a second display for your Mac computer without any wires or add-ons

  • How to download apps on your iPad for free in the App Store

  • How to change the iCloud account on your iPhone, and use a separate account for iTunes & App Store purchases

  • 'Why won't my iPad connect to Wi-Fi?': How to fix your iPad's Wi-Fi connection in 4 different ways

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