What Is an IPA File?

How to open, edit, and convert IPA files

A file with the IPA file extension is an iOS App file. They function as containers (like ZIP) for holding the various pieces of data that make up an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch app; like for games, utilities, weather, social networking, news, and others.

The structure of an IPA file is the same for every app; a PNG file (sometimes a JPEG) is used as the icon for the app and the Payload folder contains all of the app's data.

Screenshot of several IPA files used with iTunes in Windows 10

IPA also stands for International Phonetic Alphabet. If you're not interested in the file format but instead want to convert English to IPA symbols, you can use a website like Upodn.com.

How to Open an IPA File

IPA files are used by Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. They're downloaded from the device through the built-in App Store app.

If you're running a modern version of iTunes (12.7 or newer), you might have luck installing one to the device from your computer using AltStore or Diawi.

For computers running an older version of iTunes, the IPA file can be downloaded directly through iTunes. They're saved to this location so that the device can access them the next time it syncs:

  • Windows: C:\Users\<username>\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Mobile Applications\
  • Mac: ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications/

These folders are also used as a storage for iOS App files that were downloaded from the device. They're copied from the device to the iTunes folder after syncing with the computer.

While it's true that IPA files hold the contents of an iOS app, you can't use iTunes to open the app on your computer. They're just used by the program for backup purposes and so that the device can understand which apps you've already purchased or downloaded.

You can open the file outside of iTunes using the free iFunbox program for Windows and Mac. Again, this doesn't let you use the app on your computer, but instead just lets you transfer the IPA file to your iPhone or other compatible device, without using iTunes. The program supports lots of other features, too, like importing and exporting ringtones, music, videos, and photos.

iFunbox opens the file through the Managing App Data tab, with the Install App button.

You can also open an IPA file with a free file zip/unzip program like 7-Zip, but doing so will just decompress it to show you its contents; you can't actually use or run the app by doing this.

You can't open an IPA file on an Android device because that system is functionally different than iOS, and as such requires its own format for apps.

However, you can open and use the file on your computer using iOS emulation software that can trick the app into thinking it's running on an iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone. iPadian is one example but it's not free.

How to Convert an IPA File

It's not possible to convert an IPA file to another format and have it still be usable in iTunes or on your iOS device.

For example, you can't convert IPA to APK for use on an Android device because not only are the file formats for these applications different, but Android and iOS devices run on two entirely different operating systems.

In the same way, even if an iPhone app has, say, a bunch of videos, music, or even document files, that you want to keep for yourself on your computer, you can't convert the IPA to MP3, PDF, AVI, or any other format like that. It's just an archive full of program files that the device uses as software.

You can, however, rename it to use the ZIP file extension so that it opens as an archive. Doing this merely lets you see the files inside, so most people probably won't find that useful.

Debian Software Packages (.DEB files) are archives that are normally used to store software installation files. Jailbroken or hacked iOS devices use the DEB format in the same way "normal" apps use IPA. K2DesignLab has some instructions on converting IPA to DEB if that's something you want to do.

Apple's Xcode software is one way iOS apps are created. While IPA files are built out of Xcode projects, doing the reverse—converting the file to an Xcode project, isn't possible. The source code can't be extracted, even if you convert it to a ZIP file and open its contents.