Install iOS apps from outside the App Store

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Apple has always been quite strict about its App Store policies, disallowing any app that violates its content policies. However, because of these policies, many demanding apps, such as console emulators, torrent clients, etc., do not usually make it to the App Store. Of course, one way of getting such apps on your iPhone or iPad is to break down Apple’s walled garden by jailbreaking the device.

Install iOS apps from outside the App Store - No Jailbreak

However, by jailbreaking your device, you may be exposing it to a number of vulnerabilities. Moreover, you might lose official support from Apple in certain situations. If you’re only trying to get a few apps from outside the App Store that don’t require any special system permissions, side-loading is a safer option. It keeps the walled garden intact, but also lets you install unapproved iOS apps at the same time.

How to install apps without App Store – No Jailbreak

The method of installing apps from outside the App Store may differ slightly, based on the form in which you get the app.

Getting the app files from outside the App Store

If a particular app is not available on the App Store, you might be able to get it from external sources, in any of the three forms — an IPA file, a DEB file or the Source Code. Installing apps from the source code or DEB file would require the latest version of Xcode on a Mac. However, installing an app from an IPA file can be done on a Windows PC too, as it doesn’t require Xcode.

Install iOS apps from .IPA file

If you already have the IPA file for an app that you want to install on your non-jailbroken iOS device, you need another application called Cydia Impactor, to re-sign the app with an Apple ID. Once the IPA is signed, you can install it on your iOS device.

Note:
#1 You need a Mac or Windows PC with iTunes installed, for Cydia Impactor to work.
#2 If the intended app to be installed is a tweaked version of an app that is already present on your iOS device, ensure that you uninstall it first.

Follow the steps below to install an IPA file without jailbreaking your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch):

  1. Download and install Cydia Impactor on your Mac or Windows PC.
  2. Connect your iOS device to your Mac or Windows PC via a USB cable.
  3. Once the device is connected, launch Cydia Impactor and drag the downloaded IPA file onto the application window.
  4. You’ll be requested to enter a working Apple ID and password. It is recommended to create a separate account exclusively for this purpose.
  5. Next, click OK on the Apple Developer certificate warning. The intended app will now be installed on your device.
  6. On your iPhone or iPad, go to the Profiles settings screen. Depending on the iOS version running on your device, this may be achieved by going through either “Settings >> General >> Profiles & Device Management” or “Settings >> General >> Device Management” or “Settings >> General >> Profiles”.
  7. Tap on the Apple ID that you signed the IPA file with, and “Trust” the developer. This will enable your iOS device to run apps that are signed with the above Apple ID.

You have successfully installed the IPA file without jailbreaking your iOS device.

Install iOS apps from .DEB file

If you have a DEB file for the app that you intend to install, you will need App Signer to sign the app with your Apple ID, and convert the DEV file into an IPA file. Additionally, you also need Xcode to install the app on your iOS device. Hence, this method will only work on a Mac and not on Windows PC (since Xcode is not available for Windows).

The following steps will guide you to set up and install an iOS app from a DEV file:

  1. Download and install Xcode, if it is not available on your Mac.
  2. Open Xcode and go to Xcode >> Preferences.
  3. Click on the ‘+’ button in the Accounts panel and enter your Apple ID details. This will turn your Apple ID into a free developer account.
  4. Go back to Xcode and select the “Create New Xcode project” option.
  5. Select Single View Application and click Next.
  6. Type the Product Name (app name), unique Organization Identifier (for e.g. com.yourname.appname), and select Swift as the coding Language. Also ensure the “Development Target” version of iOS matches the iOS version on your iPhone or iPad.
  7. You may see an alert about Provisioning Profiles. Click the “Fix Issue” button to fix it.
  8. Sign in with your Apple ID if necessary.
  9. From the drop-down menu, select your development team (usually your name).
  10. Download App Signer and unzip the file.
  11. Launch App Signer and click on the Browse button next to the Input file.
  12. Under the Signing certificate option, click the drop-down menu and select your Apple ID.
  13. Under Provisioning Profile, click the drop-down menu and select your intended app (for e.g. com.yourname.appname).
  14. Click the Start button. App Signer will now sign the app with your Apple ID and also convert it to an IPA file, so that Xcode can install it.
  15. Connect your iOS device to your Mac or Windows PC via a USB cable.
  16. Go back to Xcode and click Window >> Devices.
  17. Select your iOS device from the left sidebar and click on the ‘+’ button under “Installed Apps” section.
  18. Select the IPA file created with App Signer and click Open. The app will be pushed to your iOS device.
  19. Once the app is sent to your iOS device, head to the Profiles settings screen on your iOS device. Depending on the iOS version running on your device, this may be achieved by going through either Settings >> General >> Profiles & Device Management or Settings >> General >> Device Management or Settings >> General profile.
  20. Tap on the Apple ID that you used in Xcode and “Trust” it to allow the use of apps signed by your account.

You may now launch the installed app from the Home screen.

Install iOS apps from source code (Xcode Project)

If you have the Xcode Project file of the app you want to install (from GitHub or any other source), you can build the project using Xcode and install it on your iOS device. Follow the steps below to install an app from an Xcode Project on to your non-jailbroken iOS device:

  1. Download and install Xcode on your Mac.
  2. Open Xcode and go to Xcode >> Preferences.
  3. Click on the ‘+’ button in the Accounts panel and enter your Apple ID details. This will turn your Apple ID into a free developer account.
  4. Open the source project file (with XCODEPROJ extension).
  5. Plug your iOS device into your computer.
  6. Click Product >> Destination and select your iOS Device.
  7. Back at the main Xcode screen, find the Bundle Identifier box and enter a unique name (for e.g. com.yourname.appname).
  8. Select your Apple ID from the Team drop-down menu.
  9. Click the “Fix Issue” button and sign in with your Apple ID (if necessary).
  10. A window will pop up asking for your team name, from the drop-down menu, select your development team (usually your name).
  11. Now, click on the Play button to compile the app. If there aren’t any errors, the app will be pushed to your iOS device.
  12. Once the app is sent to your iOS device, head to the Profiles settings screen on your iOS device. Depending on the iOS version running on your device, this may be achieved by going through either Settings >> General >> Profiles & Device Management or Settings >> General >> Device Management or Settings >> General profile.
  13. Tap on the Apple ID that you used in Xcode and “Trust” it to allow the use of apps signed by your account.

Go back to the Home screen and launch the installed app.

The methods mentioned above will enable you to install apps from IPA, DEB or Xcode Project sources on your non-jailbroken iOS devices for free. But usually, apps installed from such sources are not usually verified as malware-free by any recognized body. Also, you might find the above processes complex and inconvenient.

If such is the case, you can also opt for a paid solution called Build Store that makes it easier to install some of the popular iOS apps not available on the App Store. It also verifies that the hosted apps does not contain any malicious code. You can learn more about Build Store in this article.

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