The alternative App Store for iPhones


– Since the rise of the modern
smartphone 10 years ago, one thing has remained constant: Apple’s approach to iPhone apps. The App Store launched
in 2008 and, with it, Apple laid out how it was going to let third-party apps onto its platform. And not much has really changed. You still have to develop your app according to Apple’s rules, submit it to the company for review, and then pray Apple lets it onto the App Store. Anything that crosses the
line, especially around copyright or privacy, isn’t allowed. And those rules are extensive. The guidelines document is
more that 12,500 words long. But, if you’ve been following
the world of mobile apps since the early days of the iPhone, you’re probably well aware that there are holes in Apple’s walled garden. On Android, Google typically lets you do a lot of stuff you can’t do on the iPhone. But that doesn’t mean people have stopped trying to find ways around
Apple’s restrictions. In fact, they’ve only
gotten smarter about it. (bass heavy electronic music) This is AltStore. It’s one of the latest attempts
by independent developers to bypass the App Store, and it’s made by a recent college graduate, Riley Testut. – AltStore basically lets you install apps outside the App Store
by tricking the phone into thinking you
developed the app yourself. Like, you programmed
it and you installed it and you’re testing it out on your device. So a few years ago, Apple had the ability for Xcode, Apple’s
developer tool, to allow anyone with an Apple ID
to install their own apps on their phones so that
Apple could encourage people to learn to program iPhone
apps and test them out for schools and curriculums,
stuff like that. But so basically, I’m using that same process, but just without Xcode. – Riley was inspired to
make AltStore through a trick he discovered in
the jailbreaking community. You probably remember jailbreaking. It used to be pretty
much the only way to get unauthorized apps onto your iPhone or features Apple hadn’t developed yet. Well, after jailbreaking
started to fade out, some really savvy programmers started coming up with ways to
get apps onto the iPhone without needing to jailbreak your phone. One of those methods was with a software called Cydia Impactor. Like AltStore, the Impactor
exploits a loophole in how iTunes communicates and
syncs files with the iPhone. But Cydia Impactor only lets you take app files and put them on
your phone from your computer. AltStore is a fully functioning platform that can, in theory,
support a whole ecosystem of apps that live
outside of the App Store. It also lets you download apps and updates over Wi-Fi without
needing to plug your phone into your computer all the time. Riley’s even made one
of those apps himself. It’s a super polished version of his old Nintendo emulator that he’s
spent years fine-tuning. It used to be called GBA4iOS, but now he’s calling this more
powerful version Delta. It can let an iPhone play Super Nintendo, Game Boy Advance, and even N64 games. It’s got a sleek,
built-in controller scheme and some really nice save state features. But Riley knew he could never
get Delta onto the App Store. Apple wouldn’t allow it
because there are strict rules around apps that might be used
for copyright infringement. So, he started thinking
up more clever ways to get around the restrictions
on iOS, and that’s what pushed him to come up with
AltStore instead of just releasing his app on Android
and calling it a day. – AltStore and everything just came from me wanting to get Delta out. It just made sense for me, if I’m building this
whole process for Delta, just to build it out for anyone to use. So I’m kind of doing it
’cause I want to also improve the quality of
apps that you won’t find on the App Store but could
still exist on the platform. – Okay, quick side note:
we’re not encouraging you go download video game files, which are known on the internet as ROMs. Sites hosting those ROMs have been shut down by game companies
and it’s generally not a good idea to share them. Now, Apple has a history of working hard to shut these things down. It’s spent years patching iOS to block jailbreaking software. But before things like AltStore existed, there was one really popular way to get around IOS restrictions. It’s been around for years and it involves using Apple’s own tools against it. That method is the Enterprise program. It started up a few years after
the iPhone really took off, when all sorts of companies
were developing mobile apps. Apple lets you pay $300 a
year for a special license that it controls that then
lets you distribute apps to anyone over the internet,
no App Store review required. It was intended for really big companies. So, like, say you work
for Amazon or Microsoft. Those employees can then test
apps early to weed out bugs. It turns out that Apple
wasn’t really paying too close attention to
who was buying access to those Enterprise certificates. Some companies would sell
them to you on the cheap and Riley even distributed his old Nintendo emulator, GBA4iOS, using an Enterprise certificate he
bought on the internet. That is, before Apple got wind of that and shut him down pretty quickly. You may also remember
that Facebook and Google were even abusing this program
up until a few months ago when they got in trouble
with Apple for installing these VPN apps onto teenager’s iPhones to snoop on their data in
exchange for $20 a month. There are tons of, let’s say, creative uses of the Enterprise program. Just look at something like TutuApp. It’s a popular alternative
app store out of China that sells access to all
sorts of pirated software. TutuApp occasionally goes down, probably because Apple is
revoking its certificates, but it always seems to come right back. Riley theorizes that the makers of TutuApp are buying new certificates
from other companies. He also raises a really good point, which is that Apple has
let this go on for years without really doing much about it. – But so I’ve always been expecting that route to kind of go away, so that’s why I’ve positioned this whole installation method
completely separate from that. – After the Facebook
and Google controversy, Apple has, in fact, gotten stricter about these Enterprise certificates. It announced some new
restrictions to the program back in WWDC, and Riley
tells me that the company is paying closer attention to who signs up for the program and what they do with it. So the Enterprise program is probably not the best way to try and
bypass the App Store anymore and that’s how we’ve arrived
at something like AltStore. Riley thinks AltStore can survive
for at least a little bit. Apple may come up with a way to disable his ability to distribute apps but it would end up affecting a lot of legitimate users on the platform. – They could completely shut down the whole service, but that would affect everyone doing this, including schools, anyone just using their free Apple ID on the side of their work or anything. So that would be a pretty
heavy-handed solution there. Besides that, they could
prevent syncing of our Wi-Fi; but even then, the worst case is you could still plug in the phone. Essentially, as long as iTunes can sync apps, AltStore can work. – So if it does survive,
Riley hopes AltStore can become a destination
for other app makers. And there’s a lot of room
for really interesting apps that don’t abide
by the iOS guidelines. – Or I know someone made
a file managing app. So, it looked gorgeous and did everything, but Apple would never allow it because you can’t replicate a desktop experience. – As for the future of the App Store, it’s pretty unlikely Apple
is ever going to budge when it comes to apps on the iPhone. But there is a small sliver
of hope for the iPad. Back at WWDC, Apple announced iPadOS. It’s a whole new operating
system dedicated to its tablet. And while the iPad’s
capabilities as a computer have been pretty held back until now, we’re starting to see
Apple open it up way more. There’s now Catalyst,
so you can develop apps for both Mac and iPad at the same time, iPads will be getting the
ability to read USB drives, and Apple is completely
redesigning how the iPad home screen, window layout,
and gesture support works so it’s more like a real laptop. – What’s a computer? – Remember that “What’s
a computer?” ad campaign? Well, Apple is actually
now following through. At some point, Apple
just might give the iPad something that could truly
make it into a computer: the ability to run apps from the internet. – So, I think it’s
inevitable that at some point the iPad will gain some way of installing apps outside of the App Store. I don’t know if that will
ever happen for the iPhone because, essentially,
the iPad is your computer and the phone is the convenience. – Unfortunately, I think I
have to agree with Riley here. I don’t see that ever
happening for the iPhone. Thankfully, we have options like AltStore. That is, if Apple doesn’t
shut it down immediately. I only get to it pick my starter, which I feel like is going
to anger the internet. Bulbasaur? No way. Charmander? Absolutely not. I’m definitely gonna get Squirtle. Hell yeah.

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