Quality apps for every device running Apple silicon

Apple has almost completed transitioning its Macs from Intel chips to its own. In using unified architecture across its products, Apple has given Mac owners an interesting bonus: the ability to run iPad and iPhone apps on their Macs, thereby greatly expanding the software catalog they have access to.

In this guide, we’ve picked a selection of apps we believe are objectively great on iPhone and iPad – meaning even if you don’t own a silicon Mac, you should find some interesting apps within; but all of them work really well on Mac as well, thereby bringing Apple fans the best of all worlds.

How to install an iPad or iPhone app on your Mac

App creators choose whether to make their apps available on Mac – and not all do. To list those you own that can be installed, open the Mac App Store app and click your name or go to Store > View My Account. In Account, select iPhone & iPad Apps. Click a download icon to install an app.

You can find apps you don’t own already by searching for them. By default, the Mac App Store will show Mac apps, but click iPhone & iPad Apps in a results list to change what’s displayed. Whatever you install will end up in your Applications folder.

Note that iPhone and iPad apps are not optimized for Mac, which means their interfaces can sometimes need getting used to. But they’re handy when there’s no direct Mac equivalent, and the best of them work well, as you’ll see below.

Overcast (free)

This podcast player for Apple devices betters the competition through a mix of quality playlist and playback options. You can create intelligent queues of unplayed episodes, and while listening boost voices and shorten silences. Handily, iCloud sync means progress moves seamlessly between devices. And although the two-pane iPad view feels a bit odd on the Mac, it works well – and you’re mostly listening rather than interacting anyway.

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Sky Guide (free + IAP)

Classier than the competition, Sky Guide feels every inch the premium stargazing app. On Mac, its ability to go full-screen and the relatively subtle sidebar animations make it feel almost like a native app. And whatever platform you’re using, Sky Guide provides fast access to a calendar with upcoming items of interest, a speedy search, and a smattering of educational insight into what’s above our heads.

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Bandimal ($3.99/£3.49)

Aimed at kids, but fun for everyone, Bandimal gives you three tracks into which you add notes to make musical critters sing and dance. From the vibrant highly animated visuals to the head-bobbing audio, it’s grin-inducing stuff. A couple of gotchas, though: you must drag (not swipe) to switch animals; and remember to head home (= button and then the house icon) before exiting to save your current song.

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TouchRetouch ($3.99/£3.49)

Many image editors include removal tools, but TouchRetouch is dedicated to eradicating unwanted objects. With a resizable window and smartly designed interface, it feels at home on the Mac too. But the app’s feature set is what really counts: with a single click or tap, you can remove lines; and a quick drag with an eraser or lasso can remove irregular objects in seconds. Tone and crop tools add a finishing flourish.

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Television Time ($2.99/£2.49)

If you’re forever juggling TV shows across multiple networks and forget what you’ve watched – and what you want to watch – Television Time is a must-own. You add shows you care about and tell it where you’ve got to. The app will then helpfully inform you when an episode is imminent, or you can dig into the Shows tab and see what’s coming up.

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MultiTimer (free or $7.99/£6.99)

Ask Siri on your Mac to start a timer and it’ll get added to Reminders. Oh dear. Try MultiTimer instead. For free, you can configure all kinds of countdowns, interval timers, clocks and repeating sessions. Pay and you can fashion multiple timer boards and sync your timers across iCloud. And the full-screen view means iMac users will have the added advantage of being able to see their timers from across the street.

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Widget Wizard (free or $3.99/£3.49)

This app lets you create a whole bunch of different widgets, based around calendars, clocks, reminders and more. Pay and you can add your own themes and dig into weather reports. But even for free, there’s great value here, not least in creating widgets based on calendar events, providing you with a glanceable overview of your tasks – whatever device you’re using.

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Retrospecs (free or $2.99/£2.49)

Our second image editor pick is like nothing else around. Load a photo and you can make it resemble how it might have appeared on a range of old-school gaming and computing hardware. For the one-click/one-tap filters alone, Retrospecs is worth the outlay. However, you can dig into custom set-ups and revel in your inner geekdom. On Mac, the app’s iPad roots remain obvious, but the resizable window means your editing canvas isn’t restricted.

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Brian Eno: Reflection ($30.99/£26.99)

Infinite Brian Eno is what you get with this app, which endlessly reworks a piece of ambient music. Eno himself likens it to a river – always the same, but always changing. A ‘painting’ accompanies the audio, which also constantly evolves. The lack of widescreen support is a pity, but the audio is sublime. Fancy something similar but more affordable? Eno’s Bloom: 10 Worlds ($7.99/£6.99) also works on Mac as does Michael Berto’s arresting Svalbard-inspired The Geography ($7.99/£6.99).

Get Brian Eno: Reflection