Last week we published a tutorial that explained a method for moving third-party iPhone application binaries from your Mac to your iPhone -- a 5-step process that involves a number of Terminal commands and requires several pieces of software. Thanks to the efforts of some hard working hackers, there is now an iPhone application that will download and install other applications directly from/on the device itself.
We put the application -- appropriately enough, dubbed Installer.app -- on an in-house phone using our previously published method (if your iPhone is already set up using our tutorial, all you need to do is download Installer.app and transfer it with the scp command we mentioned), and were pleasantly surprised by its functionality. You can choose from a predetermined list of applications that will be downloaded over the iPhone's EDGE or WiFi connection, and automatically installed. In fact, after you've installed the application, simply returning to the home screen will trigger a brief reset process that makes the newly installed program immediately accessible from the home screen.
If you haven't hacked your iPhone yet, use this method: There's even a new single-command installer that will automate the process of jailbreaking and pushing Installer.app to your iPhone, eliminating the need to jailbreak your phone with a separate utility, and run the other scripts mentioned in our guide. This process means you will need to re-download the 90MB iPhone firmware file, but is easy as pie and the best method if you haven't done any hacking on your iPhone yet. Just follow these steps:
- Download the iPhone Installer folder
- Launch the Terminal (located in /Applications/Utilities)
- In the Terminal, type cd then a space, then drag the iPhone Installer folder into the Terminal window. You should then have a command that looks something like this: cd /Users/username/Desktop/iPhoneInstaller/ (where "username" is replaced by your username)
- Press return, which will put you inside the iPhone Installer folder.
- Type ./get_installer.sh and press return.
- You will see the prompt "What firmware is your iPhone running?" Enter 1 or 1.0 or 2 for 1.0.1, then press return.
- The appropriate iPhone firmware will download. After it's finished, you will be prompted to put your iPhone in recovery mode by holding down the sleep and home buttons for about 25 seconds. When you see "Please connect to iTunes," release the buttons.
- The rest of the process is automated, so just sit back and wait until your iPhone finishes rebooting, and you'll see the Installer.app icon on your home screen.
Once you've installed Installer.app, make sure to install the "Community Sources" package first. This will give you access to many more applications than by default, including the games NES, TicTacToe, and Aquarium; productivity applications Books, MobileMoney and Squid; and System applications including OpenSSH. You'll also probably want to install the "Launcher" application (which, of course, acts as an application launcher), because the iPhone's main screen won't allow you to access more than four third-party applications.
There's also, thankfully, the ability to easily uninstall and update applications on your iPhone.
This is clearly the most elegant way to install iPhone applications yet, and hopefully an advancement that will spur development of more useful, general-purpose utilities for the device.
If your iPhone starts becoming unstable or exhibiting strange behavior as a result of third-party application installation, you can easily bring it back to normal operating mode by performing a restore. Click the Restore button under the Summary tab. Restoring the phone will erase contacts, calendars, photos and other data on the phone, but will restore automatically backed-up information including text messages, notes, call history, contact favorites, sound settings, widget settings, etc. If things go terribly wrong and your iPhone refuses to restore, see our piece titled "How 'Recovery Mode' can rescue your iPhone."