Why Apple Is Blocking Sideloaded Apps on M1s

The nerds are angry

Key Takeaways

  • Apple has closed a loophole that let users side-load iOS apps onto their M1 Macs.
  • The block is implemented on Apple’s servers.
  • This blocks new installations, and stops already-installed apps from launching.
Person in blue shirt holding a laptop over white background. A lot of apps, media and other information flying out or into the laptop.
Warchi / Getty Images

Apple has shut down the ability to manually install iOS apps on your M1 Mac. Now, if a developer says no, then it really means no, but there may be good reason for it.

The M1 Macs can run any iPhone or iPad app—you just install it from the Mac App Store. The catch is that the developer can opt out, and make its app unavailable.

Until now, you could work around this limit using third-party tools to download your legitimately purchased apps. Now, Apple has shut this loophole down. Is this a good thing, or bad?

"This is exactly the sort of authoritarian behavior from Apple that rubs me the wrong way," writes music app blogger Tim Webb. "Their [sic] Walled Garden philosophy feels more like a prison for consumers and their rights. I'm infuriated by the idea that users are limited in how they can use their lawfully purchased apps."

"Many developers are now allowing their iOS apps to be used on the Mac, after a period of testing and bug-fixing."

Server Side

By default, any app from the iOS App Store is also available for Apple Silicon Macs. Previously purchased apps can be downloaded, and anything else can be purchased. Unless, that is, the developer opts out.

There are plenty of good reasons for blocking an iPhone or iPad app from the Mac App Store. It may be untested on M1 Mac hardware. The developer may already make a Mac-native version of the app. Or perhaps it’s about money. Mac apps usually cost more than their iOS equivalents. 

However, there had been a loophole. Using the third-party backup and management tool iMazing, users could download the IPA app package of any app they had purchased. Then, you just dragged it to your applications folder, and it would work.

Now, Apple is blocking this trick at the server level, which means that none of these side-loaded apps will launch. Right now, Apple’s block is phasing in and out. YouTuber David Harry demonstrates that even previously installed apps fail to launch, while 9to5 Mac reports that, as of Tuesday, you once again could side-load and launch apps, but added "we don’t expect this to last long."

Privacy vs. Permission

Mac users aren’t happy. While you have no real right to install apps that weren’t made for the Mac, a sense of entitlement makes people think that if they paid for it, they can do what they want.

On the other hand, app developers were powerless to stop their apps from being used on a brand new platform, even though they had explicitly forbidden it.

"If you developed an app that either didn't work well or that you weren't sure would work well on MacOS, would you want to put it out there for people to have a poor experience with?" replied AudioBus forum user Wim to a thread started by Lifewire

Apple, then, has done the right thing, regarding enforcing its own rules. But by doing it on the server side, it feels like it is delving into users’ computers, and switching things off.

The Moog Synthesizer app on Mac.
Moog Synthesizer app for Mac.

The truth is far less shady—this seems more like Apple correcting an oversight—but to be fair to the more conspiracy-minded, it doesn’t look good if you don’t bother to check the facts. 

There is hope, though. Many developers now are allowing their iOS apps to be used on the Mac, after a period of testing and bug-fixing. One of those is the awesome Model 15 synthesizer from Moog, and there surely will be many more to follow.

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