Apple does not approve of AltStore’s limited sideloading iPhone applications

Apple does not approve of AltStore's limited sideloading iPhone applications

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. Watch the Latest from AppleInsider TV  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.

AppleInsider is supported by its audience and may receive revenue on qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate and affiliate partner. These affiliate arrangements have no bearing on our editorial content. As Apple is under pressure to open up the iPhone to third-party App Store providers, one developer has been assisting customers in sideloading apps since 2019 — and has concerns about overbroad laws requiring users to be allowed to sideload. Apple has been consistently consistent and clear in its stance that sideloading poses malware dangers, and it will require changes in the law to enable unapproved software onto the iPhone. Nonetheless, developer Riley Testut has been leveraging one of Apple’s own technologies to let customers to install apps from sources other than Apple’s curated App

Highlights

  • 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, and moreover FastCompany says that every app installed must be “refreshed” by connecting to AltServer once a week. AppleInsider staffers have used the AltStore periodically since release. We can confirm that it works, and does what it is advertised to do. However, the installation of both the AltServer and apps through it can be finicky. Sideloading is a risk. Testut may not be able to circumvent these and other Apple limitations, but he plans to create a security system that will ensure sideloaded apps are not malicious.

  • 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.

However, Testut does very much believe that everyone should have the right to sideload if they want to. And he believes that the app industry needs that freedom. “Apple takes an approach to the App Store where they only approve what they imagine already,” he says, “so anything that pushes the boundaries of that, Apple will just reject.” “We need a way for apps that push the boundaries to first exist, and then people will see it exist and want it in the App Store,” he continues. “No cool, fun apps are coming out. We want to see more small, but quirky, fun apps in AltStore.”

“There’s a lot of risk to sideloading,” continues Testut. “Because we’re the tool that people are using, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we’re doing what we can to prevent people from accidentally screwing themselves over.” So perhaps ironically, Testut agrees with Apple about sideloading, or at least he does when it’s potentially on a large scale. He does not approve of proposed legislation that would conceivably allow any consumer to download any app, without some protection. “We don’t like the bills, actually,” he told Fast Company. “We really think they are too broad, and they have serious ramifications for consumer privacy.”