The App Store is the only way to distribute apps to iOS users. It has led to the conflict between Apple and Epic, but that’s not entirely true. Developers have always been able to share their source code so that others can install apps themselves via Xcode, and since 2014 they can run beta tests via Testflight.
Testflight was a standalone service acquired by Apple and integrated with the company’s developer platform. Developers can release beta versions of their apps there, and the only thing Apple checks is that the apps 1) work and 2) are not malware. In addition, the only restrictions are that a maximum of 10,000 people can use an app and that each version only lasts for 90 days.
According to a report from Protocol Testflight has become home to a number of apps that for various reasons are content to be there.
Some developers have tried to enter the App Store but failed, others have not even tried because they know the apps will be rejected. Some stick to Testflight because it’s easier to detect by users there than in the App Store jungle.
Those who are curious about testing different beta apps can visit Departures, a website started by iOS developer Thomas Weigt that lists various open Testflight apps. There is everything from big business apps like Tiktok and Spotify to new, unknown apps.