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  • - 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.

- Since the rise of the modern smartphone 10 years ago,

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A2 apps apple app store app riley iphone

The alternative App Store for iPhones

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/18
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