Archive for May 2, 2024

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Core Technology Fee Exemptions

Apple (MacRumors):

Today, we’re introducing two additional conditions in which the CTF is not required:

  • First, no CTF is required if a developer has no revenue whatsoever. This includes creating a free app without monetization that is not related to revenue of any kind (physical, digital, advertising, or otherwise). This condition is intended to give students, hobbyists, and other non-commercial developers an opportunity to create a popular app without paying the CTF.

  • Second, small developers (less than €10 million in global annual business revenue*) that adopt the alternative business terms receive a 3-year free on-ramp to the CTF to help them create innovative apps and rapidly grow their business. Within this 3-year period, if a small developer that hasn’t previously exceeded one million first annual installs crosses the threshold for the first time, they won’t pay the CTF, even if they continue to exceed one million first annual installs during that time. If a small developer grows to earn global revenue between €10 million and €50 million within the 3-year on-ramp period, they’ll start to pay the CTF after one million first annual installs up to a cap of €1 million per year.

Khaos Tian:

Would be annoying if AltStore PAL no longer qualifies for CTF exemptions because it had sales to cover CTF in the first place 🙃


Update (2024-05-03): Kosta Eleftheriou:

Imagine having to pay Apple money to install an app on your Mac from some website.

Update (2024-05-07): Nick Heer:

Two fundamental issues remain with the Core Technology Fee — namely, that developers still need to pay Apple even if their app is distributed exclusively outside the App Store and in-app payments are handled by a third-party processor, and the fee is an unknown and surprising future charge. One marvels at how the Mac could remain such a successful developer platform for so long without the support of a per-install fee.

EagleFiler 1.9.14

EagleFiler 1.9.14 is a maintenance release for my Mac information organizer app.

Some interesting bugs were:


Delta Emulator in the App Store

Kyle Orland (MacRumors):

Apple’s decision earlier this month to open the iOS App Store to generic retro game emulators is already bearing fruit. Delta launched Wednesday as one of the first officially approved iOS apps to emulate Nintendo consoles from the NES through the N64 and the Game Boy through the Nintendo DS (though unofficial options have snuck through in the past).

Delta is an outgrowth of developer Riley Testut’s earlier sideloadable GBA4iOS project, which recently had its own unauthorized clone removed from the App Store. Before Wednesday, iOS users could load Delta onto their devices only through AltStore, an iOS marketplace that used a Developer Mode workaround to sideload apps from a self-hosted server. European users can now get that AltStore directly on their iOS devices (for a small 1.50 euro/year fee), while North American users can simply download Delta for free from the iOS App Store, with no ads or user tracking to boot.

It’s not in the EU App Store.

Riley Testut:

Thank God the CTF only applies to downloads in the EU 😅

Shira Ovide (via Hacker News):

The hottest iPhone app in America may owe its popularity to government crackdowns on Apple.


Apple had banned apps like it for years but un-banned them this month without much explanation. Delta’s creators say growing anti-monopoly pressures were responsible for Apple’s flip-flop.

Dare Obasanjo:

Apple was pressured by regulators to allow game emulators on iOS and now the most popular app is a game emulator with a 4.9 star rating.

Remember this when people claim Apple’s restrictions on what you can do on your phone to protect their app store revenue doesn’t harm consumers.

Parker Ortolani:

Delta’s success is proving that there is an insane amount of pent up demand for the things Apple has insisted on keeping from us for 16 years. It is proving the point of critics.

Jason Snell:

Sure, some of that is probably a natural tendency by some of us veteran App Store users to download forbidden fruit before Apple has a re-think and decides to ban it again. But there’s also a genuine interest in reconnecting with older games, something that’s been there all along on other platforms—but has always been blocked from iOS by Apple’s arbitrary policies.


So where do we go from here? While Apple’s acceptance of emulators in the App Store is groundbreaking, and should delight many fans of retro gaming consoles, it’s an extremely limited change. Nobody really knows how Apple defines any of the words in that phrase. How old is retro? Is an old computer on which you can play games a console?

I grew up playing games on early computers, including the Apple IIe. Does the ability to open a spreadsheet in AppleWorks disqualify an Apple II emulator that would otherwise let me play Lode Runner and Choplifter? And if so, why?


Apple should allow retro emulators of all kinds in the app store, and allow game emulators to use JITs to boost performance. Otherwise, its limited expansion of the rules feels mostly for show and not indicative of a real change in approach to App Store rules.

John Gruber:

An incredibly polished, high-performance game emulator, available free of charge with no ads. That’s some old-school internet awesomeness.


Now the questions is: Does Nintendo care?

Brendon Bigley:

Personally though: I really just want to play Pokémon on my phone. The reason I switch to Android is the prospect of playing Pokémon Silver again while I’m on the subway or in the back of a Lyft or while waiting in line. Ultimately Nintendo is unlikely to allow this in a way that lets me pay them directly for the experience. They justifiably prefer having their Nintendo Online subscription service and providing limited access to their valuable back catalog on devices they control entirely. The idea of launching a Pokémon game as an app on the App Store is a non-starter. But with emulation apps present on both Android and iOS and many people already enjoying these experiences, one wonders why not make a change? I would gladly pay Nintendo to play back-catalog Pokémon games on my iPhone and I would be over the moon if they recognized this as a valuable audience segment worth catering to. In a lot of ways, it’s about to be extremely difficult to ignore this user-behavior.

John Voorhees (via Federico Viticci):

So, you’ve probably seen the (totally justified) hype surrounding the Delta emulator’s launch on the App Store and downloaded it because, why not, it’s free. You may have also recalled that, like a lot of people, you have a box of old Game Boy cartridges stored somewhere that are gathering dust. Or, like me, maybe you spent way too much money on second-hand videogame sites during the COVID lockdown. Regardless of your Game Boy cartridge origin story, today I’m going to show you a simple way to breathe new life into those games by bringing them, along with your save files, to your iPhone.

The easiest way I’ve found to pull the game files from a Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance cartridge is with a little USB-C accessory called the GB Operator by Epilogue, or as I like to call it the Game Boy Toaster. That’s because the device looks like a top-loading transparent toaster that takes game cartridges instead of bread. If you have a big collection of game cartridges, the GB Operator is a great investment at $50 because it allows you to both play and back up your games using a Mac.

Riley Testut (via Craig Grannell):

So apparently Apple approved a knock-off of GBA4iOS — the predecessor to @delta I made in high school — in the App Store. I did not give anyone permission to do this, yet it’s now sitting at the top of the charts (despite being filled with ads + tracking)

I’ve bit my tongue a bunch in the past month…but this really frustrates me. So glad App Review exists to protect consumers from scams and rip-offs like this 🙄


AltStore PAL

Riley Testut:

I’m thrilled to announce a brand new version of AltStore — AltStore PAL — is launching TODAY as an Apple-approved alternative app marketplace in the EU. AltStore PAL is an open-source app store made specifically for independent developers, designed to address the problems I and so many others have had with the App Store over the years. Basically, if you’ve ever experienced issues with App Review, this is for you!

We’re launching with 2 apps initially: my all-in-one Nintendo emulator Delta — a.k.a. the reason I built AltStore in the first place — and my clipboard manager Clip, a real clipboard manager that can actually run in the background. Delta will be FREE (with no ads!), whereas Clip will require a small donation of €1 or more. Once we’re sure everything is running smoothly we’ll then open the doors to third-party apps — so if you’d like to distribute your app with AltStore, please get in touch.


Sources are integral to AltStore’s design and allow it to be completely decentralized. This means there is no central directory of apps; the only apps you’ll see in AltStore are from sources you’ve explicitly added yourself. It’s up to developers to self-promote their apps and direct users to their websites, where users can add their source with a single tap via AltStore’s altstore://source?url=[source URL] URL scheme (or by copying & pasting the source URL directly). Distributing apps with AltStore is also completely free of chargeanyone can distribute an app for free on AltStore as long as they make a source.


I strongly believe this business model works well — especially for indie developers — so we’ve gone all-in and added deep Patreon integration to AltStore to allow all developers to monetize their apps the same way we do. Developers can choose to offer some (or all) of their apps to just their patrons, and even control which tiers unlock which apps on a per-app basis. And to further encourage Patreon use, AltStore will take no commission on Patreon donations, allowing developers to keep the entirety of their Patreon proceeds.

They’re charging €1.50/year for the marketplace itself to cover the CTF.


AltStore PAL just updated their FAQ saying that they currently support one device per subscription. This confirms that Apple left marketplace app developers with no option to tell whether multiple devices belong to the same user or not. Apple promises that the CTF applies once regardless of how many devices the user has.

Since app developers can’t tell if an additional device belongs to a subscribed user, they are forced to charge the user per device to be on the safe side.

John Gruber:

For iOS power users and enthusiasts, alternative app marketplaces are going to be fun and useful. Right now there’s no better place to be an iPhone user than the EU.

David Barnard:

I’m moving to the EU so I can finally have a clipboard manager on iOS.

Adam Demasi (tweet):

The whole marketplace flow is a disaster. While AltStore seems to have tons of problems itself […], the majority of the problems are in Apple’s implementation.

App installation has no progress prompts. The app-marketplace:// URL scheme, used by websites to tell iOS to begin installing a marketplace app, displays zero progress. It only has the ability to display error messages, such as telling you you’re not eligible (not located in the EU), or that you need to go to Settings to allow the app to be installed. Naturally, there’s no button that takes you to Settings, nor any explanation of what you do when you’re there.

Once you’re in Settings, a followup button appears below your Apple ID name. Tapping Allow simply dismisses the prompt. There’s no indication of what happens next. The answer is - nothing happens. You need to go back to Safari and initiate the installation again. Then, you get another full screen prompt, and then an alert prompt. The app then starts downloading, but nothing tells you that. Tapping the download button does nothing now. You just eventually think to go to the home screen and find the app.


Make no mistake, if a teenager was able to build a jailbreak that puts a Cydia icon on the home screen with a download progress bar back on iOS 4.3 (2011!), Apple can do far better with user experience here. They know what they’re doing. The sloppiness of the whole process is intentional, and AltStore needing to charge €1.50/year is a barrier Apple fully intended to force upon marketplaces.

Kyle Howells:

Apple’s designed the alternative AppStore process to be as terrible a user experience as they think they can get away with.

I used to jailbreak all my devices. EVERY SINGLE Jailbreak app store was miles better than this mess.


Update (2024-05-07): Kyle Howells:

I’d like to remind everyone all the work Apple has done, to make such a terrible 3rd party app store experience, was entirely voluntary.

iOS has had app true side loading, install from Safari, since iOS 3. Just locked down. All that was actually required was turning that on.

Update (2024-05-23): Paul Haddad:

I don’t get this at all. One hack is unacceptable, but another uglier hack is OK? Apple disallows always running background applications for battery life reason, but it’s OK to use location services and a map even though that’s almost certainly going to waste a lot more battery?

For the record, I think Apple should allow always running apps on iOS (with scare alert to enable) and I think outside the App Store notarization should concern itself with security issues only.