Riley Testut, an iOS app developer who has for years worked on mobile video game emulation, just released a project that has the potential to shake up the entire iOS ecosystem. He calls it AltStore, and it’s an alternative to Apple’s App Store that distributes software Testut says may “push the boundaries of iOS.” In particular, it supports Testut’s own Nintendo emulator, called Delta, which will let anyone with an iPhone or iPad play Super Mario and other classics. Also, it doesn’t require you jailbreak your iOS device. Anyone can download AltStore right now.
I definitely appreciate the work put into this, and it seems quite slick and usable. It’s been in the works for years, and in a blog post, Testut explains in more detail how it all works.
AltStore is a fully native, sandboxed iOS application that allows you to sideload apps by essentially “tricking” your phone into thinking it’s installing apps that you made yourself, when really they can be any apps whatsoever. Since this is an actually supported installation method by Apple, it’s far less fragile than other distribution methods in the past. Similarly, since there’s no single enterprise certificate to revoke (because technically every user now has their own developer certificate using this process), Apple can’t simply shut it down with the press of a button like they have with some 3rd party app stores (until they receive a new certificate in a week or so, of course).
To bypass several restrictions put in place by Apple to limit the use of this developer feature, you need to run an AltServer on your PC or Mac, which bypasses these restrictions and pushes new applications to your device using WiFi. It’s quite clever.
While I don’t share The Verge’s rather optimistic view that this “has the potential to shake up the entire iOS ecosystem”, it does seem like a very simple and easy way to bring iOS a few steps closer to Android when it comes to being a full, complete operating system.