The App Store, run by Apple, is the primary way users download and install apps on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. However, there are some ways to get apps onto your iOS device without using the official App Store. In this article, we’ll explore the options for sideloading, or installing apps outside of the App Store, on an iPhone or iPad.
Why Would You Want to Download Apps Outside the App Store?
There are a few main reasons why someone may want to download apps without using the App Store:
- To get apps Apple has banned or rejected from the App Store – Some apps don’t comply with Apple’s guidelines or are considered controversial, like emulators. The App Store may reject them, but you still may want to install them.
- For enterprise or development purposes – Companies may want to distribute internal apps to employees. Developers want to test their apps before releasing them.
- To get apps and versions not available in your country – The App Store catalog varies by region. You may want an app not available in your country’s App Store.
- To get apps for free instead of paying for them – Some people look for free options to paid App Store apps.
- To customize your device – Installing unauthorized apps can allow deeper customization like themes, overclocking, etc.
In most cases, the tradeoff for getting these types of apps is that it requires modifying or circumventing iOS and App Store restrictions in some way.
Option 1: Jailbreaking
Jailbreaking removes software restrictions imposed by Apple on iOS devices. It allows you to gain root access to the operating system and install apps outside of the App Store. Here’s an overview of how it works:
- Jailbreaking requires exploiting vulnerabilities in iOS to escape its restrictions.
- Different teams release jailbreak tools for specific iOS versions. They may or may not work on newer updates.
- The process typically involves connecting the device to a computer and running jailbreak software.
- Jailbreaking permanently modifies the iOS system files until it is updated or restored.
- It enables installing apps through unofficial app stores or sideloading methods.
Jailbreaking makes major changes to your device software, so it has some drawbacks:
- Apple does not support jailbroken devices. You lose access to services like iCloud and Apple Pay.
- You may not be able to update iOS until another jailbreak is available.
- Jailbreaking voids your device’s warranty since it breaks the user agreement.
- It poses some security risks if you install untrusted apps or tweaks.
Overall, jailbreaking gives you the most flexibility for downloading whatever you want outside the App Store. But you trade off Apple services, security, and convenience for that freedom.
Here are some well-known jailbreaks for getting apps on your iPhone or iPad:
|Jailbreak||Developer||Compatible iOS Versions|
|checkra1n||checkm8 team||iOS 12.0 to 14.8.1|
|unc0ver||Pwn20wnd||iOS 11.0 to 14.8|
|Odyssey||TheOdysseyTeam||iOS 13.0 to 13.7|
|Chimera||Electra Team||iOS 12.0 to 12.5.5|
|greenpois0n||Chronic Dev Team||iOS 4.1 to 4.2.1|
These jailbreaks cover most supported iOS versions. Do your research to find a trusted one that matches your specific iOS and device type.
Option 2: Third-Party App Stores
Some third-party app stores let you download apps without jailbreaking. They work by taking advantage of iOS enterprise and developer certificates:
- Apple allows companies to distribute apps to employees using enterprise certificates.
- Developer certificates let developers install unsigned apps for testing.
- Some app stores misuse these certificates to let anyone sideload apps.
Here are some examples of third-party app stores that don’t require jailbreaking:
- Panda Helper: Offers hacked and modified apps. Easy to install.
- TutuApp: Provides apps and games for free. User friendly.
- AppValley: Features a wide range of apps including emulators. Frequent updates.
- TweakBox: Lets you download paid apps for free. Simple installation.
- iNoCydia: Includes many major Cydia apps. Compatible with iOS 7 and up.
The downside with third-party app stores is they frequently get revoked by Apple, stopping you from opening the apps. They may also lack updates for the latest iOS versions. Still, they offer an easy way to get more apps without jailbreaking for average users.
Option 3: Installing IPA Files
IPA files are app archives containing the installer payload for iOS apps. You can download unmodified IPA files and install them on your device with some workarounds.
There are a few methods for installing IPA files:
- Cydia Impactor: A desktop app that sideloads IPAs using your Apple ID. Requires 7-day re-signing.
- AltStore: Also uses your Apple ID but resigns apps automatically. Easier than Impactor.
- iOS App Signer: Sideload tool that works offline but requires a paid developer account.
- Xcode: Apple’s official IDE lets you build, sign and deploy apps for testing.
IPA files are powerful because they give developers access to the exact app binary. But sideloading IPAs has downsides:
- You need the IPA, which may require extracting it from a device.
- Apps need to be resigned frequently, which is inconvenient.
- Free Apple IDs are limited to 10 app installs per 7 days.
Still, sideloading IPA files directly can provide more options for experienced users looking for specific apps.
Option 4: Using a VPN or DNS Profile
Connecting your iOS device to certain VPNs or DNS profiles may allow you to access content not available in your region. This includes apps from a different country’s App Store. Some examples include:
- DNSCloak: A custom DNS profile that can spoof your location.
- TurboVPN: Includes countries like the US, India, Japan to access other App Stores.
- AtlasVPN: Lets you choose VPN servers from dozens of countries.
- ExpressVPN: Has high-speed servers in 94 countries to change App Store regions.
The benefits of using a VPN or DNS to switch App Stores include:
- Doesn’t require jailbreaking or invalid certificates.
- Lets you keep your standard App Store apps and data.
- You can revert your location at any time.
The limitations are:
- You can only access apps available in App Stores globally.
- Paid apps still need a valid payment method for that country.
- VPNs can slow down download speeds and drain battery life.
Overall, switching App Store regions with a VPN provides the simplest way to get apps not available in your country without resorting to unauthorized methods.
Option 5: Using Developer Accounts
Anyone can enroll in the Apple Developer Program for $99 per year. This gives you the ability to sign and install your own apps for testing:
- You can add your devices to your developer account.
- Xcode allows you to compile, code sign and deploy iOS apps.
- Apps signed with your certificate will launch on your devices.
- You can renew your certificate membership each year to keep running them.
The advantage of using a developer account is everything is official and above board with Apple. There are still some limits:
- You need to be able to compile the source code or obtain a precompiled binary.
- You can’t publish apps to the public App Store without approval.
- Deploying the apps requires some technical knowledge.
Having a paid developer account gives you flexibility for testing and deploying apps Apple wouldn’t normally allow. But it’s not trivial for most users compared to other methods.
Option 6: Using Enterprise Certificates and Profiles
Companies can distribute in-house iOS apps to their employees using enterprise certificates. You may be able to get access to these for sideloading apps:
- Companies can create enterprise apps and provisioning profiles.
- Profiles contain the entitlements allowing app installation.
- Employees can install the enterprise apps from web URLs or email.
- No jailbreak or App Store needed since Apple approves enterprises.
Some things to keep in mind with enterprise sideloading:
- You need access to an enterprise developer account, which are for organizations.
- Enterprise apps may stop working if the certificate expires or gets revoked.
- Apple may blacklist accounts being misused to distribute consumer apps.
If you can get legitimate access to internally developed enterprise apps, it provides a simple way to install them. But enterprise certificates aren’t intended for the public.
Choosing Your Best Option
When deciding how to download apps outside the App Store, consider these key points:
- Jailbreaking gives you the most freedom but with significant drawbacks.
- Third-party app stores make sideloading easy but are prone to revocation.
- IPA files require more technical skills but offer precise app control.
- VPN location spoofing lets you access different App Stores safely.
- Developer accounts allow you to install your own signed apps.
- Enterprise deployment is simple but requires internal app access.
For most users, using a reputable third-party app store or VPN will provide the best experience. Jailbreaking is powerful but high maintenance. Developing your own apps requires coding knowledge.
Carefully evaluate the upsides and downsides of each method based on your specific needs and technical expertise.
Getting apps outside the official iOS App Store is possible but comes with limitations and risks. Jailbreaking gives you the most options but with serious tradeoffs. Using third-party app stores, IPA files, VPN location changes, or enterprise/developer certificates can work but have challenges as well.
Think about what types of apps you need and how much effort you’re willing to put in. Simple third-party app stores work well for most people looking for major banned or region-restricted apps. Jailbreaking opens up deeper customization but makes your device much harder to maintain. And remember – downloading paid apps for free or otherwise violating developers’ rights often crosses an ethical line.
With some compromise between convenience, freedom, and security, iOS does offer viable ways to get apps without the App Store. Each method requires accepting some disadvantages over the seamless default experience. Decide what matters most for your needs when choosing the best option.