When the first iPhone was released in 2007, it didn’t have an app store. Instead, it came with a handful of Apple-made apps pre-installed and if you wanted to do anything else with the phone, Apple suggested opening the Safari browser and using web apps.
The following year, Apple introduced the App Store. But it wasn’t the first app store for iPhones – the unofficial Cydia app store came first, although it only worked if you jailbroke your phone.
Cydia and jailbreaking more generally aren’t as popular as they once were – Apple has made it a lot harder to jailbreak its devices over the years, and many features that used to require jailbreaking are now baked into iOS. But Cydia creator Jay Freeman (Saurik) says Apple’s refusal to allow third-party app stores on its platform is anti-competitive… and illegal.
So he’s lawyered up and filed a lawsuit.
The move comes at a time when Apple is under increasing pressure. This summer Epic Games sued Apple over its App Store policies after the game maker sort of forced the issue by publishing an update to its popular Fortnite game that was a clear violation of Apple’s policies… prompting Apple to boot the game from the App Store.
Among other things, Saurik’s lawsuit alleges that Apple holds a monopoly over distribution of iPhone and iPad apps (including payment processing). Apple’s typical response is that this is how it protects users from installing apps that would compromise security or privacy. But it’s unclear if that will hold up in court, when other operating systems like Android, Windows, and even macOS allow installation of apps from third-party sources.
If the lawsuit goes to a jury trial and Saurik is successful, it could mean that Apple would eventually allow Cydia and other third-party app stores to be installed on iPhones and iPads without jailbreaking… although I suspect that some of the most popular apps will still probably require a jailbroken iPhone to run, since they’re designed to alter system files and settings that are normally protected.