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How third-party App Stores will look to users in the EU

AltStore's forthcoming third-party app store

While EU users wait for the launch of new third-party app stores for the iPhone, the developer behind AltStore has demonstrated how they will all work.

While not all the details or ramifications are yet worked out, Apple does now have to allow third-party companies to launch their own App Stores. Apple has to approve each new App Store, though, and while its developers wait for that, AltStore has shown off how its sideloading store will work.

In a screen animation posted to Threads, AltStore is shown displaying a very Apple App Store-like catalog off apps.

Then when a user makes a selection, the animation shows it being downloaded. The example shown is a free app, so there are no details shown of how initial or in-app purchase prices will be displayed.

It also doesn't show the extra steps needed when first installing AltStore's app store. The initial link to the new app store will be on a website, and clicking it will take users through a couple of warning screens.

The warnings concern how Apple is not responsible for refunds on items bought in other stores. And it cautions that users' data is going to a third-party firm.

A collage of mobile app store interfaces with search bars, categories, and app listings marked as free.
Three example screens showing how new third-party app stores could display items

So to use this newfound freedom in the EU, users have to first get the store, confirm they want it, then select items, and finally install apps from there.

Only, before a user does any of this, they have to know about an app they are interested in. They have to know it exists, they have to know which third-party app store it's on, and then they have to go through these steps.

All of this adds steps to buying apps, and makes the process feel more tedious than iOS users are used to.

Since the App Store began, it's been a pre-installed part of iOS, so users haven't had to download anything before looking for apps. They just tap on the App Store, and are presented with millions of apps to choose from.

AltStore has an existing niche userbase that is familiar with sideloading game emulators, so they will find the process straightforward. But neither AltStore nor any other third-party firm will provide the range of Apple's App Store, so potentially users will face multiple app stores and have to repeat these extra steps for each one.

It's going to be when Epic Games or other similarly well-known firms open a store, that will test how readily users adopt the new systems.

Separately, Epic Games has committed to launching a store. Despite originally blocking the "Fortnite" maker from having an EU iOS developer account, Apple was forced by the European Union to allow it afterall.