Three ways to get iPhone software without using Apple's App Store (2023)

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Mini-apps Altstore Airport FAQs Videos

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California on Monday, June 4, 2018.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

Fortnite maker Epic Games is leading a revolt against Apple's App Store. Last month, Apple removed Fortnite from its app store after Epic added its own payment processing in the popular game against Apple's rules. In legal filings, Epic said that Apple controls the only way to install apps on an iPhone, giving it an anticompetitive stranglehold on the market for apps.

For most people, that's absolutely true. The vast majority of apps on iPhones can be installed only through the App Store, and Apple doesn't offer an official way to install softwareoutside of the App Store using an installation file downloaded from the internet, a process called "sideloading."

Apple says it restricts users to downloading apps from the App Store to preserve quality: Apple employees review every app to assure users that iPhone apps are free of malware, offensive content, and security holes. Software makers who can't abide by its rules can build websites instead, Apple says.

However, there are other ways to install software on an iPhone.

Tencent, the Chinese technology giant, has created an empire of "mini-apps" inside its WeChat app, which are acceptable under Apple's rules for its App Store. Other alternatives operate in grey areas without Apple's blessing. Altstore, which came out in 2019, distributes apps that the App Store won't approve. Airport is a proposed alternative app store that's seeking a wider audience for beta software, which needs a little more work before it's ready for everyone, although Apple may not approve it.

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If Epic's lawsuit prevails, and Apple is forced to support alternative app stores on the iPhone, these existing methods could provide a preview of what the future marketplace for iPhone apps looks like.


The most popular way to run software programs like games on an iPhone without downloading them from the App Store are "mini-apps." They're small, lightweight software programs, and you load them from inside an iPhone app. In essence, mini-apps turn an iPhone app into its own miniature version of the App Store.

Mini apps are not full apps — they're written in HTML5, the same markup language used to create a website. That means they load much more quickly and don't require users to install anything -- just like an interactive web site runs in a web browser -- but also means they can't be as sophisticated as full apps or games.

The king of mini-apps is WeChat, the massively popular Chinese-oriented messaging program made by Tencent.

Third-party developers have built more than a million mini-apps for WeChat to do everything from ordering delivery food, shopping online, or playing a quick game. They're accessible through links directly in the WeChat interface, or through QR codes that can be found in magazines, at restaurants and stores, on business cards, and so on.

300 million of WeChat's more than 1 billion users used mini apps daily in 2019, spending the equivalent of $115 billion, Tencent said earlier this year. Other Chinese tech companies, including Alibaba and Baidu, have also added mini programs into their apps.

The idea of mini-apps is beginning to catch on in the U.S. as well. Earlier this year, Snap announced what it calls "Minis," which is the same concept, except inside Snapchat. Snapoffers mini-appsmade by third party developersfor meditation, making flashcards, and polling friends.

Mini-apps have not escaped Apple's scrutiny entirely. In 2019, Tencent announced that it would stop accepting payment for digital goods inside mini-apps to conform with Apple's rules.

The company is also coming up with its own spin on the concept. Earlier this summer, it announced what it calls App Clips. Although it's still in beta and hasn't launched to the public yet, Apple says that App Clipsare a way for developers to provide a "small part" of an app that doesn't require the user to download the full program.

Apple's App Clips are lightweight parts of apps that will download quickly when they are released this fall.


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App Clips are in a testing phase and won't be available to the public until iOS 14, the latest version of the iPhone software comes out this fall. But Apple said in presentations this summer that App Clips are good for uses like ordering take-out from a restaurant or renting a scooter. There are several ways to install an App Clip: Users can scan a QR-code like image, or tap their phone against a configured sensor, or tap on a a link from the web.

Apple declined to comment on the record for this story. But its App Store guidelines and related developer agreementsban apps that "download, install, or execute code which introduces or changes features or functionality of the app, including other apps."

But WeChat and Snap fall under a different guideline, which says that code distribution cannot be the main purpose of an app, leaving a path for mini-apps. The code used to run mini-apps can't be in a "store-like interface," and must meet six requirements, including that the software is free, can be run in Safari, and meets all App Review guidelines. In addition, all developers of mini-apps must be registered as official developers with Apple.


Apple allows developers to sideload apps to their iPhone from Xcode, software for making iPhone apps, so that they can test in-progress apps or show creations to friends and family.

AltStore automates this process, albeit in a way that most casual iPhone users will find a bit burdensome. It uses a Mac or Windows app, which is required to sideload the Altstore onto the iPhone. It also automatically refreshes Apple-imposed timers that cause sideloaded apps to become unusable after 7 days.Users are also limited to 3 apps using this method because of an Apple restriction.


This approach has other risks as well .Altstore requires the user to trust it, meaning it needs access to a user's Apple account and password. If you're installing files from around the internet, you don't have Apple's assurance that it's free from malware.

When Altstore first launched in September 2019, a lot of people told its creator, Riley Testut, that Apple would shut it down immediately. That didn't happen, and Testut told CNBC he wants Altstore to become a "legitimate store."

AltStore arose out of a previous project: A Nintendo emulator so users could play Game Boy Advance games on their iPhones.After discussions with Apple's app review team, in which he got conflicting information about whether his app would be allowed on the App Store, he came up with a new way to "sideload" his app onto an iPhone.

"Now that it's been about a year and I'm on their radar, they have changed some stuff in the last year that affected me, like they changed how authentication works with the servers," Testut said, but he "figured it out." In August, Altstore announced that it had been downloaded 1 million times.

Testut works on the project full-time with Caroline Moore, his business partner. For now, their income comes from supporters donating through Patreonfor beta access and an invite to a Discord server.Moore said that one goal for Altstore was to prove that it's possible to open up iOS to different ways to install software without compromising user security or experience.

"We're both big fans of Apple and love so many things Apple does," Moore said. "The gatekeeping, we don't fully agree with, and we're trying to show that the platform can be opened up in a way that can still be safe for users. And that's a huge part of Apple's argument."

The most popular app on Altstore is Delta, the Nintendo emulator Testut originally wanted to publish on the App Store, but people have used it to sideload about 1,000 different apps. Developers from the open-source tradition often quietly distribute iPhone app installation files on sites like Github as a way to show off their programming chops or allow other developers to see and get ideas from the code. They also sometimes upload modified games, like a version of Pokemon Go that doesn't require walking, Testut said.

In August, Altstore tweeted a photo of Fortnite installed through its software. Testut said that it was a "tongue in cheek" response to the Apple-Epic legal battle, not a new app on Altstore, but he's open to the idea.


"I would love that if Epic wanted us to host Fortnite," Testut said.



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Airport, which launched in August, allows users to browse a list of curated beta apps on iPhones.

It uses TestFlight, which is an Apple service for testing software -- it allows software makers give access to pre-release apps to large groups of beta testers through a single link.

Airport takes the TestFlight links from many different software makers and puts them into a single interface for browsing. Users can either download Airport from TestFlight, or access the list of apps through a web site.

AirPort is only a list of links. It doesn't host actual installation files. TestFlight app submissions are reviewed by Apple, so everything on the store has been reviewed by Apple.

Airport's focus is to give app makers feedback from lots of testers to improve their apps before release, co-creator Siddarth Sharma told CNBC. He and the other Airport co-creator, Jordan Singer, are trying to create a community for iOS developers, not an alternative app store living in a grey area.

Still, the current Airport service describes itself as "the best place to discover new apps from developers" and the app looks like an app store, complete with a "GET" button similar to Apple's App Store -- moves that would likely invite scrutiny if it were to be launched on the App Store. But it's still tiny compared to the App Store, and the limit of 10,000 users per TestFlight app guarantees it will remain that way.

In August, Singer said in a blog post that Airport had 300 different apps, a waitlist of 12,000 users, and 300,000 app views.

(Video) The alternative App Store for iPhones

"Will Apple approve us if we do decide to go to the App Store? Honestly your guess is as good as ours, knowing Apple recently. Even though we're not violating any rules, and using Apple protocols and development pipelines, we are creating an index of unreleased apps so I can see them denying it for that reason itself," Sharma said.

Still, Sharma said that he is building up the web version of the service in case Apple doesn't allow the Airport app onto its store or removes it from TestFlight.


Can I download on iPhone without App Store? ›

Maybe the simplest way to add apps to your iPhone without using the App Store is by using a technique called sideloading. Sideloading is the name used for installing apps directly on the iPhone rather than using the App Store.

How can I download software without Apple ID? ›

You have three main options to overcome this problem: Use a third-party tool to sideload apps onto your device. Jailbreak your iPhone or iPad so you can use alternative app stores. Use an older version of iTunes released by Apple that still supports the App Store.

Is there an alternative to Apple App Store? ›

1. Amazon App Store: Android store alternative. Everyone reeling from the industry buzz knows of Amazon's e-commerce disruptions, including the latest expansion of its famous Cashierless AmazonGo stores.

How do I install without an Apple store? ›

How can I download iOS apps without App Store?
  1. Open Safari on your iOS device and go to visit Tap the “Arrow up” icon on its screen.
  2. Select the “Add to Home Screen” button. ...
  3. Go back to you home screen and tap “the icon” of the application.
  4. Browse the article and look for the “Download page”.

How do I update iPhone apps without App Store? ›

Step 1: To update any app to the latest version, just go to Settings and select General. Step 2: Choose iPhone storage and select the app you want to update. Step 3: Select Offload app, which will remove the app from your iPhone while retaining all of its data. Step 4: Finally, tap Reinstall.

How can I install iOS software on iPhone without iTunes? ›

Update your iPhone or iPad
  1. Back up your device using iCloud or your computer.
  2. Plug your device into power and connect to the internet with Wi-Fi.
  3. Go to Settings > General, then tap Software Update.
  4. If you see more than one software update option available, choose the one that you want to install.
  5. Tap Install Now.
16 Nov 2022

How can I update my Apple software without Apple ID? ›

Updating macOS apps without an Apple ID
  1. Launch the macOS "App Store" from Applications, Launchpad or from the Dock:
  2. Once the App Store is running, you can see the apps that need updating by clicking "Updates" on the left-hand column:
  3. The page will then update with a listing of apps that need updating.

Is there a way to bypass Apple ID for App Store? ›

Can You Bypass Apple ID lock? Of course, you can. If you bought a second-hand device, you can either ask the previous owner to remove the device from his or her Apple ID or ask Apple to remove the lock by providing necessary information. And you can use the Apple ID/iCloud unlock tool to bypass Apple ID activation.

How do you find hidden apps on iPhone for free? ›

Unhide apps on your iPhone or iPad
  1. Open the App Store app.
  2. Tap the account button , or your photo or initials, at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap your name or Apple ID. ...
  4. Scroll down and tap Hidden Purchases.
  5. Find the app that you want, then tap Unhide.
  6. To return to the App Store, tap Account Settings, then tap Done.
8 Nov 2022

How do I install an app without downloading it? ›

Install it from the Instant Apps menu
  1. On your device, open the Settings app .
  2. Go to Google. Instant Apps.
  3. Tap the app you want to install.
  4. Tap Install.
  5. Follow the onscreen instructions to install the app on your device.

Can you manually install apps on iPhone? ›

If some of the apps didn't download automatically, you can redownload them manually from the App Store.

How do I manually update my iPhone? ›

Update iPhone manually

At any time, you can check for and install software updates. Go to Settings > General > Software Update. The screen shows the currently installed version of iOS and whether an update is available. To turn off automatic updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates.

How install free apps on iOS? ›

On your iPhone or iPad, open the App Store app. Browse through the Today, Games, Apps, or Arcade tabs to find apps you like. Or tap the Search tab to look for something specific. If you find a game that says Arcade, subscribe to Apple Arcade to play the game.

How do I update my iPhone software? ›

Go to Settings > General > Software Update. Tap Automatic Updates, then turn on Download iOS Updates. Turn on Install iOS Updates. Your device will automatically update to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS.

How do I force iOS to Download? ›

If you still can't install the latest version of iOS or iPadOS, try downloading the update again:
  1. Go to Settings > General > [Device name] Storage.
  2. Find the update in the list of apps.
  3. Tap the update, then tap Delete Update.
  4. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and download the latest update.
25 Oct 2022

How do I install Apple Mobile Device Service without iTunes? ›

Try the following:
  1. Open Control Panel > Device Manager.
  2. Plug in your device.
  3. Locate Universal Serial Bus Controllers > Apple Mobile Device USB Driver. ...
  4. Right-click and select Update Driver Software...
  5. Click Browse my computer for driver software.
  6. Browse to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\Drivers or.
21 Jan 2016

What if there is no Software Update on iPhone? ›

Remove and download the update again

Go to Settings > General > [Device name] Storage. Find the update in the list of apps. Tap the update, then tap Delete Update. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and download the latest update.

Can I update software on iPhone without SIM card? ›

So, in this case, the phone was being used, and you removed the SIM card to say place in another phone. In this case, yes, you can update the iPhone over Wifi. However, if the phone is not activated, and you have not configured it, the phone will refuse to move forward in the configuration process without the SIM card.

How do you bypass an update is required to activate your iPhone? ›

How do I fix the 'An update is required to activate your iPhone' error? To fix this error, take out the SIM card, reinsert it, and restart your phone. If the problem persists, use iTunes to activate it.

How do I reinstall iOS on my iPhone? ›

Reinstall iOS
  1. Connect the iPhone to your computer using the USB cable. ...
  2. Click the name of your iPhone in the Devices section and then click the “Summary” tab for your device.
  3. Click the “Restore iPhone” button. ...
  4. Click “Restore.” The license agreement document may display.

How do you bypass activation lock without Apple ID? ›

EaseUS MobiUnlock is an iPhone unlock tool that helps you bypass Activation Lock without Apple ID. Once you got EaseUS MobiUnlock on your PC, connect your iPhone to the PC, follow the on-screen instruction, and then you can sign in with the iPhone with your current Apple ID.

Can iPhone be bypassed? ›

With iOS 11, you can still bypass the iPhone lock screen and trick Siri into getting into a person's phone. The bypass is the same as it was in the earlier version of the operating system: Press the home button using a finger not associated with your fingerprint authentication, prompting Siri to wake up.

How do you reset an iPhone with Apple ID lock? ›

How to Reset a Locked iPhone Running iOS 15.2
  1. From your device's Lock Screen, try entering your passcode several times until it asks you to try again later. ...
  2. Tap Erase iPhone/iPad, then tap Erase iPhone/iPad again to confirm.
  3. Enter your ‌Apple ID‌ password to sign out of your Apple account on the device.
16 Dec 2021

Is there a secret folder on iPhone? ›

When you hide photos and videos, they move to the Hidden album, so they don't appear in your Library, in other albums, or in the Photos widget on your Home Screen. In iOS 14 and later, you can turn off the Hidden album, so the photos are completely hidden.

How do I find hidden messages and apps on my iPhone? ›

Find hidden apps using iPhone's search
  1. On your iPhone, swipe your screen to the left.
  2. In the upper portion of the screen, select the search bar.
  3. Type the name of the hidden app into the search bar.
  4. Check to see if the app will appear.
31 Aug 2022

How do you find hidden text messages on iPhone? ›

Step 1. Access your iPhone and open the Message app. Step 2. Switch to the Unknown Senders list to check hidden text messages.

Why can't I install free apps on my iPhone? ›

There can be many reasons such as ? poor Internet connection, low storage space on your iOS device, a bug in the App Store, faulty iPhone settings, or even a restriction setting on your iPhone that prevent the apps to download.

Where can I get apps for free? ›

Aptoide App Store

One of the more popular third-party app stores is Aptoide, which is a direct competitor of the Google Play Store. All you need to do is download Aptoide and you will have access to hundreds of apps that you would typically have to pay for, all at zero cost.

Are all apps free to download? ›

Some apps are free because they rely on in-app purchases for revenue. Some apps are also free to download, but with ads.

What are APK for iPhone? ›

It is like the .exe files in Windows OS that are used for installing software. The APK files contain all the data of an application ranging from its resources and manifest to the app's compiled application code. From Play Store, we usually download the apps without ever noticing the word APK.

What is the #1 used app? ›

Answer: TikTok has been the most downloaded app, and it is indeed the most used app so far, closely followed by Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Q #3) How many users are on TikTok? Answer: TikTok has over 1 billion active users worldwide.

Which is the No 1 app most downloads? ›

Instagram was the most downloaded Google Play app in 2021, surpassing TikTok by 13 million downloads.
Most Popular Google Play Apps 2021.
AppDownloads (mm)
6 more rows
7 Oct 2022

How do I manually download apps on my iPhone? ›

Apple iPhone - Install Apps
  1. From a Home screen, tap. App Store. . ...
  2. To browse the App Store, tap. Apps. (at the bottom).
  3. Scroll then tap the desired category (e.g., New Apps We Love, Top Categories, etc.). To search for apps by name, tap. ...
  4. Tap the app.
  5. Tap. GET. ...
  6. If prompted, sign in to the App Store to complete the install.

How can I download app on my iPhone? ›

How to get apps
  1. On your iPhone or iPad, open the App Store app.
  2. Browse through the Today, Games, Apps, or Arcade tabs to find apps you like. Or tap the Search tab to look for something specific. ...
  3. Tap or click the price or Get button.
6 Oct 2022

Can you download from App Store without an account? ›

Download an older version of iTunes which still supports the App Store. Bypass the authentication by signing out from your Apple account. Change your Apple settings so that the Apple ID won't be required for every transaction. Download apps with your computer then transfer them to your iOS device.

How do I manually install an app on my phone? ›

Download apps to your Android device
  1. Open Google Play. On your phone, use the Play Store app . ...
  2. Find an app you want.
  3. To check that the app is reliable, find out what other people say about it. ...
  4. When you pick an app, tap Install (for no-charge apps) or the app's price.

How do I install apps manually? ›

Simply open a page that offers APKs and download it. You'll see a warning that the APK can harm your device; tap OK to proceed. Once it downloads, you'll see a little banner with a shortcut to open it. Tap Open and you can install the app.

Can I install iPhone apps on Android? ›

Use in Your Android Browser to Run iOS Apps

Since this application is an online service, you can also use it on a PC or a Mac. Another great thing about using on Android is that you don't need to root your device.

How do you put your iPhone in developer mode? ›

Contact Us
  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone: ...
  2. Scroll down and tap Developer Mode.
  3. On the next screen, turn on the Developer Mode toggle at the top.
  4. You will see a prompt at the bottom asking you to reboot your iPhone for enabling the feature. ...
  5. Your iPhone will now reboot.

Can I install APK on iPhone? ›

Installing APK files on your iPhone is impossible. That's because these files are designed to be run on Android devices. Android apps are compiled into the Dalvik executable file, which is present inside an APK package. As for iOS; it runs compiled files from IPA, usually coded with Xcode language.

Do Google apps work on iPhone? ›

To update your Google Apps on iOS, first make sure you have the latest version of iOS on your device. Then, update your apps in the App Store. Tip: If you're still unable to sign in to Google Apps on iOS, try to sign in to your Google Account or Gmail from your browser.

How do I download apps that have been removed from the App Store? ›

How to redownload apps on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  1. Open the App Store app.
  2. Tap the sign-in button or your photo at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap Purchased.
  4. If you use Family Sharing, tap My Purchases or choose a family member's name to see content that they purchased.
  5. Tap "Not on this [device]."
8 Dec 2021

How can I download free apps on iPhone without iTunes? ›

Download AnyTrans on your Mac/PC and here is the step-by-step guide on how to install apps on iPhone without iTunes no jailbreak.
  1. Run AnyTrans and Choose App Downloader. ...
  2. Click Download Button to Download the App. ...
  3. Install Apps on iPhone.
15 Feb 2022

How can I use iPhone without Apple ID? ›

Click on Set Up Later in Settings, and a dialog box will pop up asking if you are sure you don't want to use an Apple ID. Finally, click on Don't use to confirm, and you will be able to set up iPhone without Apple ID.


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