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AltStore is an alternative app store coming to the EU that will offer Patreon-powered apps

Apple’s control of the App Store ecosystem for iPhone apps has stifled competition under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), thus now forcing the tech giant to open itself up to new rivals. So we’re starting to see what the App Store ecosystem will look like when other developers are allowed to compete with the default iPhone App Store.

One notable example is AltStore, an alternative app store that is preparing to launch an updated version of its app market in the EU using DMA, and plans to support Patreon-backed apps.

To comply with new European laws, Apple has introduced APIs and frameworks that allow developers to distribute apps independently of the App Store. AltStore was quick to take advantage of this possibility, and last week, AltStore developer Riley Testut shared screenshots of an upcoming version of the app store that will be available in the EU.

AltStore will allow developers to use its custom Patreon integration to market their apps directly to consumers, rather than relying solely on advertising, paid downloads, or in-app purchases for monetization.

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The store, which offers sideloaded apps such as video game emulator Delta, also from Testut, will initially launch with only two apps in the EU, the developer said. Delta will be available for free, and Clip, AltStore’s own clipboard manager, will require a pledge of $1 or more on the crowdfunding platform Patreon. AltStore plans to add beta versions of Delta and Clip soon, which will require a $3 monthly Patreon pledge to use.

This unique business model for monetizing apps is similar in some ways to Apple’s in-app subscriptions, but without the traditional 15% to 30% sales commission the tech giant currently charges. Under Apple’s DMA rules, alternative app stores have the option of paying €0.50 for first-time installs over 1 million per year – a new plan to leverage revenue from large apps, which Apple calls a core technology fee. (Whether Apple will continue to charge fees is uncertain, as the European Union investigates whether the tech giant violated competition law.)

As Testut explains, once AltStore is up and running, the plan is to allow other developers to distribute their apps through the storefront by setting up their own sources.

“They are also able to use the same Patreon integration we use to distribute ‘paid’ apps,” Testut told TechCrunch. This integration will create a new business model for applications that would not be allowed to use if the DMA were to take effect.

“One thing @altstore does that really should make you consider alternative payment systems that Apple would never consider: it integrates with Patreon and ties access to apps to your Patreon pledges — which puts you in the loop Your users develop an entirely different kind of personal relationship. iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith wrote in a post on Mastodon. “Alternative app stores require more than just recreating Apple’s model,” he added.

Testus claims that in addition to providing developers with a new way to make money, the EU version of AltStore will be “much simpler” to use than the current version.

Today, users who want to sideload apps through AltStore without jailbreaking their iPhone must use a Mac or PC, provide their Apple ID and password to AltStore, and then refresh the apps every seven days. Not only does this process raise security concerns, it’s also complex. However, these steps are not required for the EU version of AltStore.

“It all works pretty much the same as the App Store does now,” Testut said.

In the screenshots he shared, AltStore looks a lot like a modern app store, with categories like Games, Lifestyle, and Utilities, as well as buttons to download free apps, just like Apple’s App Store. The user interface will be slightly different, though, as Apple requires developers to insert an additional confirmation screen after users click to install the app. The screen warns consumers that updates and purchases will be managed by AltStore, not Apple.

Testut also noted that the AltStore app must be notarized by Apple before it can be installed, so it cannot install any sideloaded apps available as .ipa files.

The new AltStore is now ready for launch, but Testut says he’s waiting for Apple’s final approval.

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