Xcode 7 lets everyone install pirated apps and emulators on iPhone


You don't need to go through the App Store to install apps now.
You don't need to go through the App Store to install apps now.
Photo: Apple

For years, Apple’s software engineers have played a cat-and-mouse game, closing loopholes that let non-developers install unsigned apps on their devices. But it looks like they’re finally giving up and will let any user install anything on any Apple device — as long as they’re using Xcode 7 to do it.

The newest version of Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment for OS X and iOS, allows anyone to install apps on their iOS device. Even if it hasn’t been approved by Apple and you’re not a developer.

The Xcode website boasts that it’s now “easier for everyone to build apps and run them directly on their Apple devices. Program membership is not required.” Apple previously required that you pay a $99 per year development fee to install unapproved apps on devices. The change was intended to allow more people to code apps without a price barrier.

Apple didn’t tout the new feature onstage Monday at WWDC, but it opens the door for developers to distribute their apps outside of the App Store. It could lead to easy piracy of decrypted apps, notes iOS developer Steve Smith, while also letting users install everything from emulators and torrent clients to banned games – basically anything Apple doesn’t want in the App Store.

One developer has already discovered that it’s fairly easy to sideload GameBoy emulators like GBA4iOS using Xcode 7.

It’s unlikely that the majority of iPhone users will want to go through the hassle of downloading and navigating Xcode 7, but for those Nintendo fans dying to get their Zelda fix on iOS, this is as good as Christmas.

Via: PocketGamer


  • FriarNurgle

    Time to start shopping for a retro Bluetooth controller.

  • BronsCon

    This is just “Unknown sources” for iOS. By the way, 99% of Android malware comes from installation of malacious apps not found in the Play Store, e.g. from some unwitting user enabling “Unknown sources” and side-loading an app, something only developers should be doing (and only to install their own apps for testing). In other words, iOS users, welcome to the world of sideloaded malware.

    • ChrisC

      Most malware is loaded directly from the play store, the “quality control” is just not there like Apple. The malware in the Play Store quadrippled between 2011 and 2013…

      • BronsCon

        And yet, while there are about 2.5x as many infected Android devices, there are about 5x as many Android devices in total, making any given iOS device about 2x as likely to be infected than any given Android device.

        Mind you, I’m typing this on one of my two MacBook Pros while using my iPad Air 2 as an AirDisplay monitor. I’m not exactly anti-Apple or anti-iOS, but I do use both iOS and Android and develop for both, so I might have a tiny bit of insight here. Very few iOS users also use Android on a regular basis (and vise-versa), so there is a lot of misinformation out there, spread by members of each respective camp who really don’t have experience with the “competing” platform..

      • ChrisC

        I’m not sure how you get to those statistics in relation to infected iOS devices, there is very little to no malware in the IOS App Store thanks to Apple’s stringent security, so getting infected using the App Store is next to zero. Infections occur when users jailbreak which pretty much voids any security from Apple. I’ve used Android and it’s not for me and neither is side loading or jailbreaking, I prefer the “walled garden” as android users call it.

      • luxetlibertas

        You’re just pulling numbers out of thin air. Disinformation. I have still seen *no* cases of malware getting on iOS or OSX devices via Apple’s app stores. That’s a real achievement in itself, by the way. People getting malware by installing non-vetted software, well then you’re on your own of course.

        Apart from that, there were some minor incidents of third-party browser-plugins (java&flash, not recommended) on OSX. Stuff happens, but Apple responded quickly.

  • ChrisC

    If you’re stupid enough to side load any app that’s not approved by Apple, don’t blame Apple when your data is compromised. Whilst this is good for developers, it shouldn’t be used by joe bloggs….

    • Tom Kidd

      Something that might not be clear from the Cult of Mac article is that what this is saying is that if you’re willing to fire up the source code and compile and then run an app on your iOS device then you can do that.

      As I follow it, this is not the same thing as Android’s “Unknown Sources” as that will allow you to sideload any compiled code APK onto your Android device. No one’s saying there’s such a thing now as an IPA file you can just load up on your iOS device. You’re still going to need to set up an Xcode toolchain and compile and run stuff in order to get them on your iOS device.

      For years now there’s been NES, SNES, GBA, etc. emulators in source code form on GitHub (frequently ported over from C sources). If you had an iOS Dev Center account you could just clone one of those, hit compile, then run the apps on your phone. What this article is saying is that now anyone can do that. This is different than saying anyone can just load up any (previously compiled) app, it’s just for things that are distributed in source code form.

      The comments from Steve Smith about decrypting pirated apps and distributing .apps that need to be re-signed are wrong. Xcode’s still going to need source code.

      And I gotta say I’m kinda tired of seeing Cult of Mac posting sensationalist headlines whose only source is a random person on Twitter. I’m probably going to stop reading this site soon.

  • This is simply not correct. You can’t pirate anything. You can’t load .ipas. The only thing you can actually do is load OPENSOURCE apps, apps that have the code available online. You can compile that code and push it to your device.

    Indeed it’s a great thing, but what you are saying here, that you can “side load apps” and “pirate apps” is not correct.

    • Stuart Nicholson

      Thank heavens for that. A slippery slope towards losing top quality games from top quality companies. I would hate to see the likes of Slitherine, Rodeo Games etc leaving due to side loaded piracy. But clearly loading ipas will not be possible so that’s good news.

      • Yeah, well, it’s clear that the quality of the articles here has decreased a lot.

  • ChrisC

    I read your article and its links, the malware you’re referring to comes from a third party OSX app site in China and infects via USB. Firstly the rest of the world doesn’t use this site, secondly if you install apps that are from dodgy App Store, you get what you pay for (or don’t in this case). I’m referring to malware in the Play Store vs Apple’s App Store. These are very different stores. Average Joe is pretty safe with the OSX App Store and the iOS App Store.

  • JimGramze

    This will create a new wave of app developers. If you can make your own simple little app and actually put it on your device a lot of people might find this a whole new level of toy to play with. There are plenty of tutorials on how to create a simple little app out there already. I’m foreseeing a bunch of new people starting with “Hello World” apps moving to little utility apps catering to themselves and blossoming slowly into actual app developers. This is nothing short of HUGE.

    Then there’s the group who will indiscriminately take other’s malicious apps, compile them, and put them on their own devices. Those people get what they deserve.

    • Joseph Ryan

      Yep & Yep

  • Salomon

    That’s scaremongering. One has to obtain the full source code, assets and libraries, compile it, and then one’s able to load it to the device. It’s not like Android’s “unknown sources” and people can’t merrily side load an actual IPA package. A far far far cry from “XCODE 7 LET’S ANYONE INSTALL PIRATED APPS”

    • nope

      Yes, exactly — what a bunch of BS this article is…

      • marcdraco

        Be great to put Kodi on my iPads though. I detest Jailbreaking as it invariably ends up with one of the kids smegging something up and I Kodi (XBMC) is still the best media centre out there.