Extending the Mac with the iPhone and iPad: The Best Apps, the Best Hardware

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As powerful as Apple’s mobile devices are now, they can not (fully) replace a Mac. Especially when it comes to creating complex documents, programming, editing media, or tidying up the file jungle, the Mac is still the better choice. But often – and not least by Apple itself – talked about competition between macOS and iOS is only one side of a coin. In fact, you can use both systems symbiotically: Equipped with the right apps, iPhone and iPad can inspire work on the Mac, replace expensive accessories and even prove to be a savior in distress when the Mac hardware goes on strike.

The range is wide: iPhone and iPad can be used to remote control specific apps or the whole Mac – practically, if you want to have the music under control at the housewarming party. When the mouse breaks the ghost or the trackpad strikes, iPhone and iPad can be used to replace the input devices. Finally, Apple’s mobile devices can also turn into controllers that, after a tap on the touch screen, launch apps, apply keyboard shortcuts, or run AppleScript scripts that initiate complex workflows.

Better on the cable

Many solutions connect the iPad wirelessly as an external display to the Mac. We have the experience that the battery does not last very long. In addition, the quality of the transmitted image by cable is often better.

Especially on MacBooks, the screen space is scarce – why not use iPhone and iPad as additional screens? Programmers can work in parallel on the source code of a website and keep track of the results of their work. If you work with graphics programs on the Mac, you can outsource tools and palettes to the additional screen space. And even more: iPhones and iPads can also be used as graphics tablets and make the purchase of additional hardware superfluous.

iPhone and iPad as media remotes


In the upscale Claims to the distribution of audio signals Airfoil recommends. The macOS app lists all integrated, wired and wireless speakers (AirPlay and Bluetooth). Intuitively you can specify on which devices an audio source should be output. Among other things, it is possible to play the iTunes playback or the sound of a Youtube video on various speakers, so as to sound all the rooms of a flat at the same time. The free iOS App Airfoil Satellite not only turns the iPhone and iPad into additional speakers for Airfoil playback on the Mac, but also makes them to remote controls. So you can use both devices to control the Mac playback and make the volume balance between the speakers.

Price: 29 US dollars (macOS)
Web: www.rogueamoeba.com

iTunes Remote

Apple offers a practical introduction to the interaction of iPhone, iPad and Mac even with iTunes Remote. The free app serves as a remote control for iTunes playback. The program searches for the start in the WLAN for shared media libraries. Depending on the iTunes setting, it may be necessary to enter a four-digit code to connect to the iPad or iPhone. Then you can browse through the iTunes library with the iOS devices, start playback and pause and jump between titles and back. You can also use the mobile devices to browse the library and finally set the output device. Especially at festivities this remote proves to be practical.

Price: Free
Web: www.apple.de

Helpers for Creatives

CTRL + Console

CTRL + Console is designed to work with Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Lightroom and Quicktime. In addition to the usual playback buttons in Quicktime you can navigate through the video material in a circular motion on a virtual jog dial frame by frame. The same applies to the controller applications for Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro (€ 5.50 each). The editor extensions (each 33 euros) have a number of virtual buttons for important commands in addition to a knob.

Price: In App Purchases
Web: www.ctrlconsole.com

Astropad Standard

Astropad Standard turns iPads and iPhones into graphics tablets. The application mirrors the screen content of the Mac on iPhone or iPad and you can use the iOS device as a touchpad. Astropad shows its true qualities in conjunction with graphics applications. Within a freely determinable work surface one can work either with the finger or a stylus. If the iOS hardware allows it, Astropad responds with the line width to the pressure with which the input device is led.

Price: 33 Euro
Web: www.astropad.com

iPhone and iPad as Input Devices

Complete Essentials for Mac 2018

Complete Essentials for Mac 2018 includes three useful iOS Universal applications. Wireless Pad for Mac Computer turns iPhones and iPads into virtual numeric blocks. Remote for Mac turns Apple’s mobile devices into touchpads for cursor control on the Mac. In addition, the app serves as an app starter or remote control for media services. Included are configurations for Youtube, Soundcloud, Deezer, iTunes, Kodi and VLC. Finally, the versatile remote control provides quick access to numerous system functions. The third app in the bundle, Remote Drive for Mac, turns iOS devices into Finder remote controls that let you view files from your Mac to your iPhone and iPad. Prerequisite for the use of all three apps is the installation of a server app from the manufacturer side.

Price: 8 Euro
Web: www.cherpake.com


Basically, Bettertouchtool is designed to extend the capabilities of Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad. However, the software can even replace Apple’s input devices in conjunction with an iPhone or iPad. For this, the app BTT Remote must be installed on this. On the iPad, the BTT Remote offers 28 function keys, including media control buttons and cursor keys. An open space serves as a touchpad. If you move your finger around it, the cursor follows on the Mac screen. BTT Remote has a button on the right-hand side of the iPad that lets you control the application currently used on the Mac. Finally, the iPad app offers a file browser for the Mac. Optionally, files are then opened on the iPad or by an application of choice on the Mac.

Price: 8 Euro + 4,50 Euro
Web: www.boastr.de


Before you can use Quadro, you need to install the free Quadrosync server application. Quadro divides the iPad screen into numerous rectangles, called pads. These are used to launch operations on the Mac, such as emptying the trashcan, starting media playback, or writing a new email. In edit mode you add new pads and arrange them on the screen. In folders you can group pads. In addition to common media control actions and file operations, the app offers commands for many applications installed on the Mac. It is also possible to start AppleScript files on the Mac. Practical is the fact that Quadro offers numerous pre-configured pad screens for system applications and popular apps.

Price: 17 Euro per year
Web: www.quadro.me

iPhone and iPad as screen extensions

Duet Display

Especially on MacBooks, screen space is precious. Duet Display lets you use the iPad as an extra screen. First, a software of the manufacturer must be installed and the Mac restarted. Then you can position the iPad – or even the iPhone – in the system settings around the main screen and outsource software tools or the e-mail program. The touch functionality is maintained, because you can move the mouse pointer with your finger on the iPad screen. Frame rate, resolution and display quality can be adjusted by the Mac application. Duet Display is also able to display at the bottom of the iPad screen the most recent MacBook known touchbar, so practical features are always obvious.

The only drawback to Duet Display is that the iPad is always connected by a cable connected to the Mac. In practice, there is the possibility that Duet Display can also be used as a primary screen, for example, to use it with a Mac mini.

For a yearly fee of 23 Euro you switch the Pro version of the app free, which also supports input on compatible iPads with the Apple Pencil and can be used as a graphic tablet.

Price: from 11 Euro
Web: www.duetdisplay.com


As with Duet Display is also the installation of a Mac software from the manufacturer’s website the prerequisite. This allows finer settings in terms of performance, but in the everyday practice hardly noticeable effect. However, iDisplay does not rely on a cable – the software can also convert iPad and iPhone into additional Mac screens, if all devices are only logged into a common wireless network. Basically, a touch feature is enabled, so you can control the mouse pointer by moving around on the screens of the mobile devices. This can be switched off if necessary. As an alternative to the extension of the Mac screen, it can also reflect what can be practical in lectures: speakers and viewers will always have the same content in view.

Price: 17 Euro
Web: www.getidisplay .com

Air Display 3

The iOS Universal app gives users the choice: iPhone and iPad can be run as wired or wireless external displays when the Mac and iOS device are on the same Wi-Fi network. The mobile devices can be switched in addition to the standard resolution in Retina or HiDPI. However, the connection via Lightning cable is generally recommended, as the latency is reduced so much and the processor of the Mac works much more relaxed. For interacting with macOS buttons and windows, Air Display 3 offers many touch gestures. If the screen contents are mirrored to a wirelessly connected Air Display, the on-screen keyboard turns out to be practical. Finally, you can use an Air Display as a graphic tablet. Basically an all-rounder, specialists such as Astropad and Duet Display offer more in their disciplines.

Price: 11 Euro
Web: www.avatron.com

First Aid for Monitor Apps

The drivers for applications like Dual Display nest deeply in macOS and therefore require the administrator password during installation and require a reboot. If there are problems with the presentation, this may be due to missing rights, which the software needs. Immediately after the restart, the respective app under “System Settings”> “Security”> “General” system access must be allowed. If you do not see the “Allow” button here, problems can only be solved by de-installing and then reinstalling the manufacturer’s software.

Hardware Recommendations

Massive Tripod

Due to its high weight of about 1.3 kilograms and its rubberized feet, the table stand remains firmly in position. The iPad is clamped via a snap closure in the three-armed bracket that holds the tablet safely. This leaves headphone and Lightning ports free. The length of the arms can be precisely adjusted to the dimensions of different tablet formats up to 11 mm depth. The holder allows the rotation of the iPad up to 90 degrees. The viewing angle is also adjustable and is detected with a wing nut on the back. Above all, who would like to use the iPad regularly as a remote control for certain apps, lies with the black steel construction properly. Manufacturer König & Meyer offers the tripod in two sizes for smaller and larger models.

Price: 62 Euro
Web: www.produkte.km.de

More Display per Dongle

With the Luna Display, the Astropad manufacturers pursue a technically idiosyncratic approach to turn the iPad into a second screen. The two versions of the fingernail-sized plug can be plugged into either the USB-C socket or the DisplayPort of a Mac. Then you should be able to use the Apple tablet without another installation as an additional screen for the Mac. By using the hardware, the latency compared to a software solution should be significantly lower. For the realization, the former Apple employees on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter collected from more than 7,700 supporters almost 650,000 US dollars. From May 2018, the accessories are expected to go on sale for about $ 60.

Astro HQ
Web: lunadisplay.com

Bendable Monkey Tail

The Octa Spider Monkey owes its name to the similarity to a monkey tail. The approximately 90 centimeters long silicone-coated tail can be brought into shape at will and then retains it. One end is inserted in the “spider” disc-shaped end piece and locked with a rotation. From the palm-sized disk, press two legs with four clips that hold all types of iPad safely. The tablet clamp can be rotated 360 degrees. Put together, you can put an iPad on the desk at eye level or wrap around the swivel arm of a monitor, so that the tablet seems to float next to the screen. In addition, you can stuff the monkey tail between the sofa cushions to use the iPad as a couch screen.

Price: 80 US $
Web: www.octa.com

Tablet Clamp

The two-tone T-shaped plastic clamp Mountie is aimed at users who value a second screen when they are on the move. First, the Mountie is pushed to one side of the MacBook screen and locked by flipping the clamp. Then you push an iPhone or iPad mini into the other side of Mountie and pinches this too. Sits everything, the smartphone or tablet seems to float next to the MacBook screen. If you want to mount an iPad Pro in this way, you should use the larger version, the Mountie +. A recess in the Mountie + ensures that you can load the clamped tablet also. The well thought-out construction can be adapted precisely to Apple’s smartphones, tablets and Macs with enclosed attachments.

Price: from 23 Euro
Web: www.tenonedesign.com

Easel for Travelers

The construction of the Compass, which is available in four colors, resembles that of an easel: The 18 cm steel construction is transformed by two handles in a sturdy tripod. At the bottom of the front legs there are fold-out rubberized pads on which an iPad in portrait or landscape format at a height of about two centimeters is turned off – even if the tablet is in a protective cover. In the rear supporting leg is also an approximately four inches long foot integrated. This lowers the construction and brings the tablet in a shallow angle, so you can use it for inputs. By rubberizing the three feet Compass is always slip-proof. Practical: A nylon bag is included to transport the 230 gram stand.

Price: 40 Euro
Web: www.twelvesouth.com

Flexible Gooseneck

Before the first use of the Hoverbar craftsmanship is required: First, the massive clamp with the enclosed tool on a stable surface be attached. This can be, for example, a tabletop or the base of an iMac. In the terminal you screwed the 56 centimeters long, flexible metal arm. At the end you attach one of the three enclosed iPad brackets, in which the tablet is pressed. The arm retains its position, the iPad can be steplessly tilted and turned, even a cable guide is thought. So kann man das iPad neben oder über einem Monitor als Bildschirmerweiterung anbringen. Als Zugabe liegt dem Hoverbar ein Adapter bei, mit dem man das iPad im Hoch- oder Querformat wie einen Bilderrahmen hinstellen kann.

Preis: 60 Euro
Web: www.twelvesouth.com


Der Slope ist ein an Minimalismus kaum zu übertreffender iPad-Halter. Er besteht im Wesentlichen aus einem knapp 30 Zentimeter langen und 250 Gramm leichten Stück gebürsteten Aluminium. Auf dem sich nach oben hin verbreiternden Hals ist eine schwarze Gummifläche aufgebracht, eine weitere findet sich unter dem Fuß. Diese Gummiflächen sind mit Nanoschaum überzogen, dessen Lufttaschen wie Saugnäpfe an glatten Oberflächen haften. So kann man den Slope fast unverrückbar auf einer Tischplatte abstellen und ein auf dem Hals abgelegtes iPad bleibt dort trotz des steilen Winkels sicher haften. Mit wenig Kraftaufwand kann man die sicheren Bindungen wieder lösen. Sollten die Gummiflächen durch Verschmutzung an Haftkraft einbüßen, kann man diese mit Wasser reinigen oder schließlich auch austauschen.

Preis: 50 US-Dollar
Web: www.wiplabs.com


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