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A First Look at AltStore in the EU

Callum Booth, writing for The Verge, was able to try a pre-release version of the app marketplace flavor of AltStore, which – pending Apple’s approval – should be one of the first third-party marketplaces under the new DMA regulation. The installation process, as expected, is not exactly straightforward:

It goes like this: you begin by clicking a browser-based link to load the alternative store. From there, you receive a pop-up informing you that your installation settings don’t allow marketplaces from that developer. Then, you head into Settings, enable the marketplace, return to your browser, click the download link again, and receive another prompt asking you to confirm the install. Finally, you can open the store and browse the available apps.

Make sure to check out the screenshots in the story to see what the installation flow looks like in practice. Besides Delta, the Nintendo emulator created by the AltStore developers that has long been available as part of AltStore’s other (non-jailbreak) installation method, Booth tested Clip. This one is interesting since it’s a clipboard manager that can monitor changes to the clipboard in the background – something that is not allowed under traditional App Store rules:

Regarding the app itself, the version of Clip I tried differs from similar software offered on Apple’s App Store in that it constantly runs in the background. Normally, clipboard managers on iOS have to use a variety of workarounds to achieve comparable functionality. For example, Paste requires you to open the app each time you want to add something you’ve copied to the clipboard.

This is where Clip thrives, by comparison. When you copy something, you immediately receive a notification and can swipe down to save it to your clipboard. This means you have the option to add it if it’s something useful — like an address — or dismiss the notification if it’s something you don’t want logged, like a password. I found saving your copied items like this into a centralized location to be incredibly useful, as it makes sharing and reusing these snippets painless.

I’m very curious to see how Apple will go about notarizing apps that rely on native APIs to perform “unexpected” tasks; in this case, it sounds like Clip will integrate with MapKit to let the app stay active in the background and monitor changes to the system clipboard. (Remember when Pastebot for iOS implemented a silent audio track to run in the background? Some things never change.) Regardless, I’m keen to play around with these marketplaces as soon as I can, and I will report back.1

  1. Here’s a fun problem for me at the moment: I live in Italy, haven’t left the country in months, and I use a dual Apple ID setup with an Italian iCloud account and a U.S. App Store account. Despite my geographic location, iOS 17.4 (and the 17.5 beta) won’t let me access any of the new EU-only features yet. For example, the browser selection screen never came up for me after updating to iOS 17.4, and when I tried to install a beta version of AltStore that Riley Testut sent to me, iOS told me that my device isn’t “eligible” to install the app. I have to wonder: will iOS eventually understand that I’m an Italian citizen with a U.S. Apple ID? Or am I living in some kind of weird edge case that will never be fixed? We know that there’s a grace period for users who leave the EU, but what about the other way around? ↩︎