Can I put a Mac app on my iPhone?

Can I put a Mac app on my iPhone?
Quick Mac Tip, 29 January 2012

Can you move a Mac app to your iPhone, or vice versa? Sadly, no. Here’s the full story.

A client asked me the other day:

I bought Bejeweled for the Mac. Can I move it to my iPad?

The quick answer is No, though it’s slightly more complicated (not much).

Bejeweled for iPhone or Mac.

Bejeweled for iPhone or Mac.

Mac OS and iOS are different platforms

Apple make both Macs and devices such as iPhones, iPods and iPads. Because they make both they also make them seem very much alike.

For example, both a Mac and an iPad run the Safari web browser, and it looks and works pretty much the same on both devices.

But under the hood is the Operating System, or OS.

Macs run on the Mac OS while iPads, iPhones and the iPod touch run on the iOS.

Those are what are known as platforms.

It’s a little bit as though your iPad is thinking in German while your Mac is thinking in Chinese.

You need separate apps

iOS Version 5.0.1.

iOS Version 5.0.1 (9A405).

Because of that difference in what’s going on behind the scenes you can’t just transfer or copy an app from one device to the other. Your Mac can only run apps designed for Mac, and your iPhone or iPad can only run apps designed for them.

The slight quirk with iOS

There’s one slight quirk though: just because the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad all run on iOS doesn’t necessarily mean they can all run the same apps.

One clear example is that an iPhone can make phonecalls, while an iPad can’t. So an app that does something with the phone wouldn’t be able to run on an iPad.

There are other differences between the devices too, so some iOS apps will only run on one version of a device and not another. For example, the first iPad didn’t have a camera, while the iPad 2 does.

Another quirk, or annoyance, is an app that’s not available in all regions. Some apps just aren’t available outside the US, for example.

Different versions of the OS

Mac OS Version 10.7.2.

Mac OS Version 10.7.2.

The other quirk is that Apple keep on developing and changing the Operating Systems. I started using Macs a couple of decades ago back when the OS was at version 6. Now it’s up to 10.7.2. The iOS is currently at version 5.0.1.

Each version of the OS brings new and different capabilities, but may need the device it runs on to have certain hardware.

That means that OS 10.7 won’t run on older Macs, for example. Or an app may run on an iPad 2 but not an iPad 1.

Buy the right apps

Whether you’re buying from the Mac App Store, the iOS App Store or from a website, look for the version that matches the computer or device you use.

Bejeweled has separate versions for Windows, Mac, and iPhone or iPod touch. You need to buy the correct version for the device you’re using. And the same goes for all apps.

Check your OS version

Not sure which version of the Operating System your Mac or iOS device is running?

For Macs, see How to find your software version.

For iPhone, iPod, iPad: go to Settings > General > About and look for the Version section.

Let us know in the Comments how this Tip helped you.

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