Apple’s iPhones and iPads popularized the idea of app stores, which make it easy to find and install apps and manage updates all from one place. But while competitors like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have all launched their own app stores, they also make it fairly easy for users to install apps from other sources.

Apple doesn’t. Officially the only way to install an iOS app from outside the App Store is to use a developer account. Unofficially you can jailbreak your device and install a third-party app store like Cydia.

Now there’s another way. Developer Riley Testut has released AltStore, which basically tricks your device into thinking you’re a developer so you can install apps that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

For example, Testut is also the developer of a Nintendo emulator called Delta which wouldn’t normally run on a non-jailbroken iOS device. But it’s available in the AltStore (and a new beta version with Nintendo DS support is also available).

So how does this work?

Apple provides a couple of different avenues for developers to sideload apps onto a phone or tablet for testing purposes before submitting them to the App Store, where Apple may reject some apps for various reasons.

AltStore takes advantage of a method that doesn’t require you to have an enterprise certificate or to pay $99 per year for a developer account.

There is a catch though — you can’t simply download apps from the internet directly from your phone. Instead you’ll need to run an AltServer desktop app on your Windows or Mac computer. When you want to install an app, it’ll download to your computer and then use iTunes WiFi sync to install the app on your phone.

You’ll also need to keep that desktop app installed and make sure to sync your device periodically — because “all apps signed with a free Apple ID are only valid for 7 days, at which point they expire and can no longer be launched.” So AltStore “will periodically refresh all your installed apps in the background.”

Also worth noting: you do need to submit an Apple ID and password to set up AltStore, but you don’t have to use your primary account for this so there’s nothing stopping you from creating an account just for use with the AltStore, which should keep Apple from identifying individual users and cracking down on their primary accounts.

Sound like too much work to be worth the trouble? I suppose you could always just jailbreak your device… if you can find a method that works for your device.

Speaking of which, a new jailbreak that’s said to work on older iPhones and iPads with Apple A5 through A11 chips has just been released. So there’s that.

via The Verge


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4 replies on “AltStore is an alternate App Store for iOS… no jailbreak required”

    1. Apple is currently getting sued for the closed nature of their app store format. So shutting this down will not look good. So it will stay up for a bit.
      Also, this process basically just utilizes features and functionality that has already been available to iOS developers forever. This just simplifies or cuts out a couple free and simple steps. So Apple won’t be able to disable it without negatively effecting the dev process for every app and every developer. So I forsee it remaining functional for a little while.

      1. Don’t hold you breath. Apple is in trouble for locking out third party repair of iPhones but they still just recently added nag screens to phones that have had their battery or screen replaced by anyone other than an Apple store, regardless if the battery or screen is a licensed Apple part. They will find a way to shut down this app store without effecting developers and they will do it “in the name of safety of their customers”.

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