AltStore allows limited sideloading of iPhone apps Apple doesn’t approve




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As Apple faces pressure to open up the iPhone to third-party App Store providers, one developer has been helping users sideload apps since 2019 — and has issues with overbroad legislation demanding users be able to sideload.

Apple has been persistently consistent and clear on its view that sideloading brings malware risks, and it’s going to take changes in the law to make it allow unapproved apps onto the iPhone. Yet developer Riley Testut has been using one of Apple’s own tools to allow users to install apps from outside Apple’s curated App Store.

According to Fast Company, AltStore has been downloaded over 1.5 million times since its 2019 launch. It reportedly has over 300,000 active monthly users, and almost 6,000 of those contribute to Testut’s Patreon, paying over $14,500 for him to work on the service full time.

Once installed, AltStore lets users add apps made by Testut. Users can also add any app they can find from anywhere, so long as it is using the .ipa format. Versions of social media apps that have had their ads removed are reportedly popular, as are classic game emulators.

AltStore exploits the fact that Apple’s Xcode development platform allows users to load apps they’re developing, straight onto their own iPhones.

“When Apple announced that [feature in 2015], I was like, ‘Oh, so there’s some way to install apps onto iOS just with an Apple ID,'” says Testut. “And from there I expanded that into a full solution.”

The full solution is not straightforward. It requires a user to install a Mac or PC app called AltServer, then AltStore security signs an app so that appears to have been made by the user.

Apps can only be installed when iPhone and Mac or PC are on the same Wi-Fi network, and running AltServer. Only three such apps can be installed at any time, and one of those is the mandatory AltStore.

It is possible to swap out apps, but there are limits on this too. Any one user can only sideload up to 10 apps per week,…

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