iPhone users in the EU get AltStore PAL, the first third-party app store

iPhone users in the EU get AltStore PAL, the first third-party app store
Earlier this year, Apple found itself compelled to open up its ecosystem in the European Union, all thanks to the Digital Markets Act (DMA). DMA singled out 6 major tech companies, including Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and TikTok’s owner ByteDance, as gatekeepers, mandating changes to how they operate within the EU. For instance, this pushed Apple to permit third-party app stores on its iPhone, and now the first one has become a reality.

EU iPhone users can now download apps from a new store called AltStore PAL

The third-party iOS app store AltStore PAL is now up and running in the European Union (via The Verge). Users with iOS 17.4 or a later version in the EU can access this alternative app store by paying €1.50 (plus tax) per year. This annual subscription includes coverage for Apple’s Core Technology Fee (CTF), which is required for installing the app marketplace itself.

Installing AltStore PAL involves clicking through multiple warning messages from Apple, making sure you are really, really sure you want to install apps from outside the App Store. But if you keep at it and click enough times, you will eventually get it installed.

Riley Testut, the brains behind AltStore PAL, mentions that the app store is also welcoming submissions from third-party developers. Unlike Apple’s centralized App Store, the idea for AltStore PAL is to have apps self-hosted by developers on their own servers. Users will need to add extra "sources" to the app marketplace to download software created by other developers.

For now, the new app marketplace comes with two apps developed by Testut. The first is Delta, an emulator capable of playing SNES, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo DS games. Interestingly, Delta is also debuting in Apple’s App Store today for users outside of Europe. The other app is Clip, a clipboard manager that Apple has forbidden. Testut shares:

Additionally, AltStore PAL is teaming up with Patreon for monetization, and it is backing developers who want to share beta apps as a thank-you for crowdfunding support, something the App Store doesn't allow.

AltStore has been a well-known app that has been around since 2019 for iOS, but up until now, getting it installed involved a workaround. Basically, you had to trick the iPhone into thinking you were the app's developer using a companion piece of software called AltServer, which runs on a Mac or PC.

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The original AltStore, which needs a desktop computer and a bit of a hacky setup, is still accessible globally at no cost.

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