In less than two-months time, a persistent and merry band of iPhone hackers have been pushing out application after killer application for the iPhone, and hacking your iPhone to install those applications has become dead simple. Today I'll show you how to download, install, and manage third-party software on your iPhone, and I'll highlight a few of the best available right now.
The Best iPhone Apps
Before you go through any of this work, you probably want to see what kind of third-party software is available. Check out the gallery below for a look at some of the best apps currently available.
My favorites are:
- ApolloIM, the AIM chat app
- Books, the eBook reader
- The NES emulator
- SummerBoard, a third-party application launcher
- SendSong, which lets you add new custom ringtones from your iPod library
- iFlashCards, for which you can install flashcard packs like the GRE vocab list in the screenshot
- vNotes, a voice note recorder. You can play back and email the notes to yourself
Grab the Software for Your Platform
Windows and Mac users each have their own app that makes "jailbreaking" the iPhone (the process that allows you to do things like install third-party applications) very easy. Windows users, go grab iBrickr. If you're on a Mac, download AppTapp installer. There are a number of ways you can get started installing applications on your iPhone, but I'm just going to show you the methods I consider easiest and best. Using either iBrickr or AppTapp Installer, we're going to install a third-party application package manager on your iPhone called Installer.app. After you've installed Installer.app, you're going to use that to download, install, update, and uninstall all of your third-party applications from the wireless comfort of your iPhone (meaning you won't need to dock whenever you want to install a new app).
Both iBrickr and AppTapp do most of the heavy lifting for you, so you're actually required to do little to no iPhone hackery to get start installing apps. Here's how they work:
Jailbreak Your iPhone and Install Applications with iBrickr (Windows)
I could go through the process step by step, but the application's creator has already put together a great video tutorial for jailbreaking your iPhone, changing ringtones, and installing apps with iBrickr, so check that out first:
Note: I ran into one minor snag with iBrickr, namely that when the entire installation process was complete it didn't realize it, so it stuck around at the last screen of the jailbreak process. If the same thing happens to you, just restart iBrickr.
You can use iBrickr to upload your own ringtones, browse the iPhone's filesystem, change system sounds, and—of course—install applications. When it comes to installing and managing applications on the iPhone, I'd recommend using iBrickr to install just one applications: Installer.app. After you've installed Installer.app, I'd suggest doing the rest of your application management from there. I'll discuss Installer.app in more detail below.
Install Installer.app to your iPhone with AppTapp Installer (Mac)
The Mac-only AppTapp Installer breaks into your iPhone and installs just one application, Installer.app. As I'll describe below, though, you can use Installer.app to install, update, and uninstall countless other iPhone apps from the comfort of your iPhone.
So go download AppTapp Installer, quit iTunes, and run the application. All you need to give AppTapp is the firmware version you're running on the iPhone and it takes care of everything else in the background, so it's basically just a one-click affair (hacking has never been so easy). Follow the dead simple on-screen instructions and—when you're done—you'll see a new icon on your iPhone home screen: Installer.app.
Install and Manage Applications on the iPhone with Installer.app (iPhone)
By this point you should have Installer.app installed to your iPhone, and you should now see it on the Home screen just below the clock. From this point, installing and managing software on your iPhone using Installer.app is actually easier than doing the same on your desktop computer.
To get started, head to the iPhone Home screen and launch Installer.app. You'll see a small list of third-party apps ready to install from the Nullriver repository (they're the people who made Installer.app). You can significantly grow the list of applications by first installing the Community Sources package. Installing Community Sources works the same as installing any application from this point, so I'll walk you through it step by step.
- Tap the package/application you want to install.
- You'll see the details screen for the application, which lists the name, version number, and a few other details. To install the package, just tap the Install button on the top right.
- When you see the confirmation prompt, just tap Yes.
That's all there is to it. Installer.app will download the program and install it to your iPhone. If the application you installed can be launched from the Home screen, Installer.app will also add that application to the Home screen. (After you've installed a new application and leave Installer.app, your iPhone will perform a very brief soft restart to the lock screen. Nothing bad has happened—your iPhone just needs to perform this restart so that your newly installed program is ready to go.) You'll run out of space for third-party apps rather quickly, so installing one of the several available launchers will probably be necessary.
You can uninstall any program using the same basic steps except from the Uninstall tab of Installer.app. What's even more exciting about Installer.app, though, is that it automatically checks for updates to any of your installed applications each time you start it up. If an update to any of your programs is available, Installer.app will play a ding notification and take you to the Update tab. Again, updating the application works just like installing or uninstalling.
Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker whose exhaustive book How to Do Everything with Your iPhone is available for pre-order now. His special feature Hack Attack appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker AU.