Developers can now make Mac and iOS apps a universal purchase

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A single bundle for everything.
Photo: Apple

It’s now possible for developers to make their apps available as a universal purchase. Apple enabled the change on Monday, paving the way for macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS apps to be bundled as one.

Apple is not forcing developers to use universal purchases. It does hope, however, that the move will promote the use of Catalyst for porting iPad apps over to Mac.

“The macOS version of your app can now be included in a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS by purchasing only once,” reads the announcement Apple posted to its developer portal.

It comes a little under two months after Apple confirmed plans to roll out universal purchase support, and it brings obvious benefits for all involved. There may be some downsides for developers, however.

Apple rolls out support for universal purchases

Support for universal purchases allows apps for Mac and iOS to be bundled as one for the first time — in much the same way that iPhone and iPad apps have been for years now.

This is obviously great for consumers because it means a single purchase could unlock a new app across all Apple devices. And it’s simple for developers to take advantage of it if they choose to. But it could take time for universal purchases to be embraced by all.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith described to Cult of Mac in February some of the downsides for software makers.

“In the long term, I think it’s true — this has the potential to devalue Mac apps, and users will come to expect a shared purchase between Mac and iOS,” he said. “We will have to come to terms with the ramifications as developers, and make choices as to what to do in our apps for our user bases.”

There are some upsides, too, of course.

A simpler way to buy apps

The move could help boost sales of apps that are available across Mac and iOS. It makes sense that consumers will be more likely to pay for software they can use everywhere, and apps that are available as universal purchases will eventually be preferred over those that aren’t.

It also makes managing apps easier — developers will only have one bundle to worry about for each of their titles in App Store Connect.

Apple is hoping universal purchase support will boost Catalyst apps, too. It is already encouraging developers to port their iPad apps to Mac; being able to bundle the two together makes that an even more appealing move.

Apple’s developer portal provides more information on universal purchases for those who need it.