Over the weekend, the first unofficial iPhone App Store that allows for paid applications was launched. Called the "Cydia Store," it's actually a feature within the Cydia application itself. If you're unaware, Cydia is an application installed during the process known as "jailbreaking" where iPhone owners run a software program that removes the restrictions that prevent the installation of unauthorized applications. In the new Cydia Store, developers are able to sell applications designed specifically for jailbroken phones. This "grey market" for iPhone apps, as some call it, could soon mean big business for developers who want to create software outside the guidelines of what Apple originally intended.
About the Cydia Store
Jay Freeman is the man behind both the Cydia application and the Cydia Store, too. Freeman, a 27-year-old computer science doctoral student in Santa Barbara, Calif., said he wanted there to be a way for developers like him to make money from their efforts. Already his software, Cydia, which permits the installation of non-approved applications on jailbroken iPhones has been installed on 1.7 million devices. (For more information on jailbreaking, including why you should do it, click here. Please note, however, Apple now considers this illegal).
With the Cydia Store and its soon-to-be plentiful list of paid applications (at the moment, the sole paid application in the Cydia store is Freeman's own contact manager enhancement, "Cyntact," which sells for a dollar), developers with grand ideas will no longer need to worry about the stifling Apple approval process in which the company invokes strict rules about the types of applications which can run on the iPhone. Instead, developers are free to pursue whatever ideas spark their fancy, and thanks to the Cydia Store, they will actually be able to profit from their work.
Already, Cydia users have access to a plethora of useful iPhone applications including video recorders, zoomable cameras, GPS apps with turn-by-turn directions, themes, and much more. Although some Cydia apps were for sale before, they were generally offered for free but included "nag screens" which encouraged users to upgrade to the full-featured paid version. Now that developers can sell apps directly, however, they won't need to offer these "lite" versions in order to drive sales. That means it's entirely possible that we'll see even more high quality applications appear in the near future. Cydia creator Freeman himself notes that a few large design houses wanted to do professional themes for the iPhone, for example, and the Cydia Store makes this possible.
Facebook and Google Login Options
As for what's in store for the new Cydia Store, Freeman tells us that many new features and packages are coming soon. At the moment, Amazon Payments is being used to send money to the application developers, but PayPal support will launch later this week. Freeman also hinted earlier on Twitter about Facebook Connect and Google login integration with the store, but when asked how that would work exactly, he had cryptically commented: "you will see how that works when I release it."
As it turns out, both login options are available today and both are as easy to use as they are on the web. You simply select either the Facebook option or the Google option, enter in your account information, and you'll be taken to a screen where you can pay for your purchase. With Amazon Payments you can choose to either simply "pay now" or you can choose to "pay now" and keep your information on file for later purchases. When PayPal launches later this week, we expect it may offer similar options.
Bring on the Apps!
But what's a store without some applications for sale? Freeman says more paid applications are arriving soon. In addition to the one app there now, he says two more packages will be added later this week with many more arriving the following week and in those that follow. Cydia's store will feature some DRM-free applications but will also support the existing DRM in commercial applications like Snapture (the zoomable iPhone camera).
We hope that the availability of a store will encourage more developers to list their applications and tweaks on Cydia instead of just posting them on various message board around the net. For example, we've found some of the best Winterboard themes on the MacThemes Forum, but often, they're never added into Cydia.
Cydia is Not for Pirated Apps, It's for Better Apps
It's important to realize that what Cydia offers is not pirated or cracked applications - it's just an alternative iPhone app marketplace for the apps that Apple would never approve. And as far as jailbreaking being illegal? Well, that's being hotly debated now. No matter Apple's stand, it will be something that's hard to enforce, especially when people see the forbidden fruit that awaits them just beyond Apple's walled garden.