Ever since Apple launched the first iPhone way back in 2007, the iOS platform has been a fortress. Only by implementing fiddly jailbreak hacks could you open the operating system up to unapproved apps. However, iOS app developer, Riley Tesut, has released an iOS App Store alternative called AltStore, to shake up the iOS ecosystem using a new method that avoids jailbreaking entirely.
For years, developers have been releasing jailbreak techniques to fully unlock the iPhone and allow unauthorised apps to run. Apple tries to stay on top of jailbreaking methods with patches, so it is a constant game of cat and mouse. However, AltStore uses a different method that doesn’t require an iPhone to be Jailbroken, which should make it more difficult to shut down.
The AltStore works by installing apps on the iPhone using Apple’s developer tools. Software developers are able to install their own in-progress iOS apps on their own devices for testing purposes, the only requirement is an Apple ID and a software certificate linked to your Apple ID as a form of verification that you are installing your own software. These apps are normally only allowed to remain installed for seven days, but AltStore uses a companion desktop app on Windows or macOS called AltServer to get around this.
AltServer needs to remain active on your PC or Mac of choice. From there, AltStore will send your installed apps from the phone to the desktop and then sync back to the phone. This is done periodically to refresh software certificates and avoid the seven day time limit for installations. The downside is that you do need to give your Apple ID in order for AltStore and AltServer to refresh app certificates on your behalf.
For those who don’t know, Riley Tesut has appeared on iOS before with the GBA4iOS emulator. This emulator no longer works and Apple’s App Store policies are now very strict on emulators. However, due to the clever way that AltStore works, emulators can return to iOS. In fact, the software preview for AltStore already has a Nintendo emulator included. Right now, it only works with NES games but eventually, it should support NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo 64.
This method may be difficult for Apple to block as legitimate iOS developers need this feature to test apps before release. However, Apple will no doubt be looking into ways to stop this idea while it is still in beta, potentially with new credential checks or developer approval systems.
KitGuru says: Apple not only doesn’t allow emulators on iOS, but it also doesn’t like competing app stores being present. For now though, AltStore does seem to work, complete with an emulator for classic Nintendo games. Have any of you tried this out on an iPhone? What did you think of it?