iPhone App Store Gets Direct Competition From the Underground

cydiastoreAs you are probably well aware, pretty much every one of Apple’s competitors in the smartphone market either has or is planning to develop its very own App Store-type method of distributing platform-specific software for their handheld devices. While this is generally a good thing, because it weakens the hold of carriers on the type of software available on phones they sell, it doesn’t really provide iPhone owners themselves with more competitive choice, unless they’re willing to ditch their hardware.

Now there is an alternative: the Cydia Store, an unapproved marketplace for iPhone and iPod touch software created by Jay Freeman, the developer of the Cydia installer application for jailbroken devices. The Cydia Store is intended to be a way for developers to distribute their paid applications without going through Apple — and having to deal with Apple’s approval process. It’s good news for iPod touch and iPhone owners, since apps that are blocked by Apple or their cell phone provider partners, like ones that facilitate Internet tethering, could make their way into the Cydia Store.

The Cydia Store opened for business on Saturday, with a massive launch library of exactly one title, Freeman’s own Cyntact, which allows your iPhone to show profile pictures in your contact list. Cyntact is priced at $1. It’s a far cry from the official App Store’s 24,000-and-counting applications, but Freeman’s alternative is just starting out, and developers might also want to wait and see what happens with another unofficial application distribution method reportedly in the works called Rock Your iPhone, which apparently makes it even easier for the un-jailbroken to get a hold of non-Apple approved apps.

Apple’s still waiting to hear back about the case it submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office maintaining that the unauthorized modification of iPhones and iPod touches is illegal, but there is little doubt that whatever the outcome, they don’t cherish the idea of competition as much as Freeman seems to. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this encouraged them to take further measures against jailbreaking, to protect the massive additional revenue source iPhone app sales represent.

For me, the Cydia Store is just one more reason to be in favor of jailbreaking. I’ve yet to cross over, hoping against hope that Apple will implement the features and abilities I’m looking for legitimately. Time and a conspicuous silence on Apple’s part seem to indicate against that, however, and if the Cydia Store broadens its library, I might just have to go underground to get what I want.

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