iPhone gets its first third-party app store in the EU — here's what you're missing

altstore pal app store for iphone
(Image credit: Altstore PAL)

The EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA) helped out all iPhone users with a universal USB-C port, but some features — like third-party app stores — are still restricted to EU-only iPhone users. The first official third-party app store, called AltStore PAL, just went live in Europe, and we're a little jealous (via The Verge).

Created by Riley Testut and Shane Gill, AltStore PAL can be installed directly from the Altstore website on EU iPhones running iOS 17.4 or later. During installation, The Verge reports having to click through a bunch of "scare sheets that double and triple check" that you are sure you want to install apps outside of Apple's official App Store, but other than that nuisance, the installation process is simple.

Emulated Nintendo games for a tiny fee

AltStore PAL costs €1.50 (plus tax) a year, which covers Apple's per-user Core Technology Fee (CTF) for installing the app marketplace. At the time of writing, €1.50 is equivalent to $1.60 in the U.S. — a small price to pay for all the potential apps you'll have access to, well someday maybe.

At the moment it's a limited list. EU users have access to two apps developed by Riley Testut: Clip, a clipboard manager that typically requires workarounds that "are all against App Store rules," according to Testut, and Delta, a retro game emulator for iPhone that can play titles from NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS consoles.

delta retro game emulator on iPhone

(Image credit: Riley Testut)

For monetization, AltStore PAL will be integrating with Patreon. Developers who want to offer beta apps as rewards for crowd-sourced funding can distribute these through AltStore, a feature that currently isn't allowed in Apple's App Store.

To download Clip, you have to make a minimum monthly Patreon pledge of €1 (plus tax), or $1.07 (plus tax), but downloading Delta is completely free. And with Apple recently welcoming retro game emulators in the App Store, Delta is actually available to download in the US as well.

Because Delta offers to emulate Nintendo games, this might go against Apple's vague rules for retro game emulators, so it's possible it could be removed from the App Store. But until then, we're taking the win since we're missing out on the third-party app stores.

For iPhone owners in the EU, it's not a blockbuster day-one launch, but this is still a win for consumer choice and time will tell if AltStore and other third-party app stores can carve out a place in the Apple ecosystem.