Apple’s Craig Federighi explains how iOS apps will work on macOS

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macOS Mojave
Some of Apple's iOS apps will be available inside macOS Mojave.
Photo: Apple

Apple confirmed during its big WWDC keynote on Monday that iOS apps are coming to macOS.

The company has spent two years developing the frameworks required to make the ports possible. Several of its own iPhone and iPad apps, including Apple News and Voice Memos, will be available inside macOS Mojave this fall.

In a new interview, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, reveals more about how iOS apps will work on a Mac. He also promises that they won’t make your Mac feel like a super-sized iPhone.

Apple won’t merge iOS and macOS

Federighi made it clear during the WWDC keynote that Apple won’t merge macOS and iOS. “We love the Mac and we love macOS,” he said, and it should remain a dedicated operating system that serves different needs to iOS.

However, Apple appreciates that some Mac users might want to run some of their favorite iOS apps on the desktop. That’s why the company is making it possible for developers to port iOS titles to macOS in 2019.

In the meantime, Mojave will offer four iOS apps that Apple has already converted: Apple News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos.

Apple wants to do ports properly

These aren’t just iOS apps running inside an emulator. Apple has created new frameworks that combine AppKit from macOS with UIKit from iOS. This allows iOS apps to be optimized for Mac as they are built in much the same way they might also be optimized for Apple TV.

Certain interactions will happen automatically. For instance, right-clicking inside an iOS app on a Mac will act as a long press. However, app developers will have to write some additional code if they want things like sidebars that only appear in macOS.

“Even though the apps are effectively being shared between operating systems, Federighi emphasized that your Mac won’t start behaving like an iPhone,” reports Wired.

“It’s still macOS, you still have the Terminal, you can still attach four monitors to it, you can still hook up external drives,” Federighi said.

Apple acknowledges that not all iOS apps will be suited to Mac, but many will. Federighi mentioned that hit game Fortnite may be a good candidate, but Epic Games already offers a macOS version.

Apple won’t bring touchscreens to Mac

iOS apps on macOS aren’t a precursor to Macs with touchscreens. Federighi made it very clear that Apple is “not into touchscreens” on desktops and laptops. When your Mac is sitting on a surface, lifting your arm to operate a touchscreen is “fatiguing,” he noted.

Federighi still sees today’s touchscreen PCs as “experiments,” despite lots of positive reviews of certain models — particularly Microsoft’s Surface lineup. Apple doesn’t see these devices as competitors to its own machines.

Developers will continue to have control over distribution and app pricing when they bring their iOS apps to Mac. Apple will obviously have more details to share next year when the next version of macOS allows porting.

Federighi hinted that we’ll hear more at WWDC 2019. His full interview with Wired is available now.