As first spotted by Steve Troughton-Smith, release notes for the latest beta build of Xcode include a major development: Mac apps can soon be included as universal purchases with their iPhone and iPad companions.
Universal Purchase for Mac/iOS apps! 😱 pic.twitter.com/9yNrDmwvWD
— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) February 5, 2020
Universal apps currently enable you to make a single purchase to gain access to both iPhone and iPad versions of an app. Nearly all cross-platform developers default to this option, though some still sell separate iPhone and iPad apps. macOS has never been included as part of universal apps though, even after Mac Catalyst launched last year. That sounds like it’s going to change when the latest OS updates – iOS and iPadOS 13.4 and macOS 10.15.4 – arrive this spring.
With universal app support, developers will be able to charge users a single time to grant access to Mac, iPhone, and iPad versions of their app. As Apple’s release notes state, this option in Xcode will be on by default for apps built with Catalyst, but it will also be available to non-Catalyst apps that are offered on the Mac App Store. While this change won’t be the best option for all developers, especially considering the different business dynamics of Mac and iOS apps, it makes sense for iPad developers who bring their apps to the Mac with Catalyst and don’t want to deal with the complication of a separate purchase system.