Thursday, May 2, 2024

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.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I’m physically in the EU with an EU Apple ID and despite having purchased it on April 19th, I haven’t yet been able to install AltStore Pal on my iPhone running iOS 17.4.1.
And I’m not the only one.

The process is super janky: right after purchase, iOS warned me that I was not allowed to download an alternative marketplace yet.

I needed to visit the Settings app and explicitly authorize the AltStore developer (it’s like authorising system extensions on macOS).

Once I had done that, I tried to download the marketplace app again but nothing happened.
The next step was to check the Screen Time settings and in the Content & Privacy Restrictions, there is a toggle to switch to allow app installation from external app marketplaces.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t help because the marketplace app itself wasn’t installed yet.

I (and many others) have tried to get hold of the developer without success.

After a few days, they put up a Troubleshooting guide that I followed to the letter and still can’t install the marketplace app on my iPhone.

As much as I want to root for small indie developers, this experience is proving Apple right and will make me think twice before paying for an alternative means of getting apps on my phone.

I don’t care much about the 1,76€ (incl. VAT), it’s more the apparent lack of care and support that bothers me.

@Damien Obviously, AltStore should provide documentation and support, but it sounds like the core problem here is that Apple built a confusing and unreliable system so it mostly proves them right in the sense that their sandbagging worked.

"As much as I want to root for small indie developers, this experience is proving Apple right"

You do understand that Apple created the experience you've just described, yeah?

@Michael & @Plume I understand that part of my experience is due to Apple since they designed the whole system.

Having said that, they were also legally obliged to push an iOS update to hundreds of millions of people without really knowing if the implemented changes would be in compliance and without any large scale testing.

The AltStore developers, on the other hand, chose to rush to market with equally little testing while lacking the support staff that any paying customer could legitimately expect.

In the end, even if the responsibility is shared between Apple and AltStore, it’s the latter that sold me something that I can’t use.

And unlike Apple, I can’t get a refund. The only thing I can do through my Stripe customer portal, is cancel a yearly subscription so that they stop charging me next year.

We’re back to a direct seller-client relationship between AltStore and myself, a relationship into which I entered with ordinary expectations.

Old Unix Geek

If I were you Damien, I'd wait until it gets debugged. I don't install the first couple of versions of MacOS either for the same reason. You have a full year until you need to cancel the subscription. Use a scheduled email to remind you 10 months from now.

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