If you're familiar with MightySignal products, you may already know that we offer custom data feeds which give you periodic snapshots from the Google Play and Apple App store. You choose the feed type (such as App Rankings, App Reviews, or App Details) and specify your desired date range, and we capture that curated data snapshot. Then, you can programmatically import the data into your own business intelligence tools. But you may not know that we've added a new data point to our App Details feed for iOS apps: the "Mac Compatibility" field. Why? Read on:
M1 Mac rollout
In November 2020, Apple released the new M1 chip, and announced that it would be the start of a two-year transition to a new family of chips designed specifically for the Mac. They started by rolling out the M1 chip in the new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini. They also released macOS Big Sur, an operating system engineered to take advantage of the capability and power of the M1 chip. MightySignal began using the M1 Mac Mini as a core part of our device lab in December, and we've been pleased with the results so far. Yet, this rollout has presented some challenges - with a silver lining, which we'll get to in a bit.
The M1 is an ARM chip, which uses a RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) architecture, while Apple's previous line of computers relied on Intel's x86 chip, with a CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing) architecture. Since most Mac apps prior to the M1 product release were designed for the CISC architecture of the x86, they can’t run natively on the new M1 Macs. However, this isn't Apple's first time transitioning chipsets; they've done it twice before, so they were ready. Enter the Rosetta 2 emulation system.
A modern Rosetta Stone
The prospect of losing years' worth of investment in x86-compatible Mac apps can daunting for consumers. Fortunately, apps that can't natively run on the M1 chip can still be used on new M1 Apple devices; they just run on top of the Rosetta 2 emulation layer, which translates between RISC and CISC processor architecture. Older apps running through this translation layer may be a tiny bit slower when compared to Mac's new "Universal" apps, which are executed natively on the M1. However, the difference is negligible, and the necessity of the Rosetta 2 emulator also brings a bonus with it - that silver lining we mentioned earlier: now, iPhone and iPad apps can run directly on the Mac.
That means you no longer have to buy apps twice just to use them on your iPhone and MacBook. It also means app developers now have the option to publish a single app compatible with multiple device platforms. Of course, additional device compatibility requires extra planning and software development time, so not all app dev teams are ready to focus on exploiting this new possibility right away. The market simply needs some time to catch up. In the meantime, the Apple Store has started specifying which apps are (and aren't) compatible across multiple devices.
Mac compatibility - a useful new data point
Around the time we started running on the M1 Mac Mini, we noticed a new field value on the App Store app pages which spoke to MacOS compatibility. This meant we'd be able to view when a mobile app was meant to be explicitly compatible with other M1 Mac devices. According to our data, approximately 63% of iOS apps in the Apple store currently have Mac compatibility. So we started including that info in our scrapes. It's now in the "requires_hardware" field of our App Details feed, along with these values: ["iPad", "iPhone", "macOS"]. We're happy to offer this useful new data point, and we look forward to feedback about how our customers are using it as the software market for multi-device apps continues to grow.
If you're interested in learning more, or gaining access to our App Details feed, please reach out to us and we'll be happy to walk you through it.