Hack your iPhone: install applications with Installer.app and AppTapp

(By the way, when I talk about “hacking” your iPhone, I mean closer to “modding”. I’m interested in running third-party native applications on my iPhone, and don’t care as much about unlocking the iPhone to work with other carriers.)

I’m amazed at the pace of iPhone hacking. Even a week ago, you’d see multi-step guides to installing apps on an iPhone. Now there’s a program (Installer.app) with a front-end called AppTapp that does everything in a nice graphical user interface (GUI) for you. You don’t have to type a single command, but you will need an Apple computer (either Intel-based or PowerPC-based works).

Disable automatic sync in iTunes

First, plug your iPhone into your computer so that iTunes comes on. On the left-hand side of the screen under “Devices” click on your iPhone, and then on the page that comes up, click so that “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” is OFF. It looks like this:

Disable the synchronization in iTunes

(By the way, to grab a screenshot of a window on a Mac and save it to the desktop, you need to hit Command-Shift-4, then the space bar, then click a window. Sheesh.)

Download and run AppTapp

The combination of AppTapp and Installer.app lets you add applications to your iPhone with almost no effort:

– Make sure that iTunes isn’t running. Plug your iPhone into your Apple computer and make sure that iTunes didn’t start running.
– Download AppTapp to your Apple computer from http://iphone.nullriver.com/beta/
– Run it.

That’s pretty much it. iPhone Atlas has the best walkthrough I’ve seen if you want more details about AppTapp/Installer.app or what to do after you’ve run AppTapp. The short version is to update Installer.app first (touch the “Update” tab). Next you want to install the Launcher program (you can only see 16 icons on your iPhone, so installing Launcher ensures that one of those first 16 icons can access other applications).

After that, you’ve got a lot of options. The “Community Sources” package will give you even more choices for applications to install. Installing “OpenSSH” and “BSD Subsystem” is also recommended. Finally, if you install the MobileTerminal application, you can experience the joy of typing “ls” on your iPhone. Walking around with UNIX in your pocket is very nice. 🙂 See the iPhone Atlas guide for screenshots and more info.

If you want to impress your fellow geeks, Lights Off was the first native game for the iPhone and it also looks great. My brother and I had a similar “turn the lights out” game when we were growing up, but it was called Merlin. Now you can play this game on much prettier handheld appliance. 🙂

More Resources

If you’re a Windows person and can’t beg/borrow a Mac from anyone, you might check out iBrickr. It lets you manage ringtones and applications on your iPhone.

If you don’t want to go the AppTapp/Installer.app way on a Mac, you might also check out iFuntastic. iFuntastic lets you tinker with all kinds of things, from ring tones to applications to multiple “home screens.” Each home screen can have a different set of icons. Version 3 was released just a few days ago and the new version adds PowerPC support.

As always, back up your data first, and any of this could (in theory) break your iPhone. I don’t think anything I’ve mentioned would get you in trouble with lawyerfolk, but if you’re worried, you can always play it safe and stick with the built-in applications on the iPhone. If you see errors above or know of another interesting way to install native third-party applications on an iPhone, please mention it in the comments.

71 Responses to Hack your iPhone: install applications with Installer.app and AppTapp (Leave a comment)

  1. Hey Matt:

    So, after having time to “hack”, play around with and actually use your iPhone – would you say it’s worth the money (initial price and monthly bill)? Or is it more of a toy for you at this time? I’m thinking about holding out for the next round of technology…maybe? I’m sort of afraid to pull the trigger at this time…..

  2. Good guide.

    Also for screenshot on mac you can also use Command-Shift-3 to capture the whole screen like prt scr on windows or Command-Shift-4 and drag a crosshair.

  3. What are the advantages over skype?

  4. E Lawrence Welch, it’s strictly better than my old cell phone and I love it. If you have a regular cell phone now, I think you’ll like the iPhone. If you have a Blackberry or Windows smartphone, then it might not be as good a match. I love using my iPhone to surf the web during down time (e.g. waiting in line), but it would frustrate me to try to do a bunch of email on it.

    Martial, Skype is a whole ‘nother cup of tea. 🙂 It’s great if you want cheap calling though.

  5. The only thing worse than taking a screenshot on a mac has to be doing it on a PC. It always sucks when you don’t know the operating system. I once had to do it on the PC and was shocked that I needed to open a different program to paste my screenshot. On the mac I always had total control and it generated a .pdf and not a .png with Tiger.

    You can also try this utility that is supposed to be pretty cool. They still haven’t granted me a beta run but maybe you’ll have some pull 😉


  6. “It’s strictly better” – that’s a very mathamatician-like way describing it. 🙂

    Does it seem silly to anybody that we have to go through all this effort these days just to be able to run “cd” or “ls”(/”dir”) ? Every time I get a new phone or palmtop it seems to take a week to get what seem simple OS commands to work. Glad you have managed to get openSSH working, though – that makes it suddenly seem really useful.

  7. Shouldn’t you be using a Google Phone? ;-P

    I want a Google phone now! Not an iPhoney 😐

  8. Tim Wintle, I do like the idea of being able to run things like SSH from my iPhone. 🙂

  9. Matt, how many times did you touch the screen already? I read somewhere that it wears out after 3 to 6 months of extensive use.

    Any command-shift-4-space combinations on your iphone? 🙂

  10. Peter (IMC), it hasn’t worn out for me yet. 🙂

    One iPhone trick is that on the keyboard there’s a button to switch to the keyboard to number/punctuation mode. It turns out that you can touch that button, hold it down, and drag to a number and let go. You’ll enter the number without leaving alphabetic mode. It’s pretty handy.

  11. iPhone atlas guide is nice as it has shown through screenshots.

  12. I finally decided to take the plunge and mod my iPhone last night. iBrickr worked great, and once I got the Installer package manager app going, OTA software installs are ridiculously easy.

    Then they dropped the price today to $399 for the 8gb version…! No reason not to get one now.

    I personally like summerboard, which adds scrolling, wallpaper, and some other stuff to the home screen. Instead of or in addition to using rsbt to re-arrange the icons. The new Mobilechat works great for AIM too.

  13. I live in a large city where it can be hard to find your way around sometimes. Also, you may be walking around and you need to know where the closest store is to you. I love the map feature wherever I go. I use it so much more than my old phone, to me it’s worth it’s weight in gold. I highly recommend it!

  14. After successfully installing installer.app, i installed a few application. The problem is that those applications have now occupied all the space in my home screen (springboard) and i cannot see my installer icon anymore. How do I access the installer again?! .. so i can remove the applications or atleast install a launcher or a new version of springboard so i can scroll through the installed applications. But to do any of that, i need to access my installer, which i don’t know how to. Please help. Thanks.

  15. Did someone – and a fellow Brazilizn at that! – actually ask about “wearing out the screen” in 3-6 months from excessive touching?? The screen is made of GLASS and, last I checked, skin rubbing glass will never wear out the glass…. Or did I miss something?

  16. I just saw David Pogue’s video in today’s NYTimes about installer.app He talked about “sunburst” as a package for scrolling the app icons on the iPhone, but I can’t find it installer.app Can anyone help me, please?

  17. i can’t find installer.app either, i installed too many apps and now it has removed itself from the screen and i never downloaded a scrolling summerboard, what do i need to do to get it back?????? please help

  18. to access the icons that don’t fit on the screen install summerboard in the application list is what I installed. Seems there are other possibilities, dash and maybe customize, maybe dock

  19. Hi I was wondering if any body knew what would happen if I plugged my iphone into itunes after doing this would any thing bad happen to my phone?

  20. Webcastr.com video of iPhone Hack

    Here’s a video of the 17 y.o. kid that started the AT&T iPhone hack that I found tonight on Webcastr.com.


    Worth watching.

  21. I successfully installed the installer.app and i installed a few application, I am not-by any stretch of the imagination a computer wiz and i have no idea what some- ok most of theses apps. are for, can someone fill me in on what some of these apps are and what are the ones that I def. need.

  22. My computer no longer recognizes my iphone, or my husbands unhacked iphone, so i cant download any songs on to it, I am scared to do much because I anm afraid of breaking my phone, does anyone know what I can do to fix this?

  23. anyone working on an app that would allow t-mobile hotspot@hot wi-fi connection for voice?

  24. Just a note:
    You do not need a Mac to run these Mods. I am on a pc, and have been running the mods just fine.
    The only think that you need a mac for is the direct file transfer apps. (connecting locally to the phone) . Since these programs have been developed on a mac, with no pc version of the software. There is one file transfer program out there for pc, but i haven’t tried it, since i’m not interested in jailbreaking.

    Has anyone seen any directions yet on how to do the 1.1.1 firmware update now that the installer.app recommends it?
    Sort of a catch 22.

  25. well i have to ask bc everyone time i read one of these i get confused. what i tunes should i have and what firmware should i have to …. and can i sync into my phone after i hack it or can i do that b4 the hack thxs …

  26. Why everything on iPhones (or other mobile solutions)? We got computers!

  27. I recently purchased an iPhone and have been surfing the net for the last two weeks about modding it, and I have come to a conclusion:

    There is no good all-in-one knowledge base for doing so. The information is scattered all across the web, on a bunch of sites, which is bad for trying to solve problems. So I decided to create a Group to serve this purpose.


    I am writing to you because I am an avid reader of your blog (for Google reasons, not iPhone) and I stumbled across this page in my searches. I’m not looking for anything special like linking or a blog post (although either or would be awesome). I am just looking to try to spread the word, maybe get a few people to join, the more the better quite obviously.

    I just created it within the last hour, so there isn’t much activity, but I’m hoping some people will stumble upon it and start filling it with info.

    Just thought I’d let you know, maybe you can join, and add some of your expertise.

    Thanx a lot


  28. So I have had my phone for awhile now but I only recently started playing with it and adding app’s. now I downloaded the springboard but it still doesn’t allow me to scroll on the home screen. my question is do I have to upgrade to 1.1.1 or am I just not doing something right

  29. If your problem is that the installed applications have occupied all the space in your’s home screen (springboard) and you cannot see yours installer icon anymore, you have to:

    download iBrickr (for PC users) version: 0.91 you found in Google
    access to your’s Iphone via usb launching the program iBrickr
    install one application that you have allready istalled
    delete via iBrickr the same application
    you can repeat this action more times, until you find space

    Have a nice day


  30. hey all.
    i was using my installer 3 on my iphone, and started downloading some games. after clicking home button, all apps were there but installer was lost, my home page was filled with some of the downloaded apps and the installer was lost? what to do ? thanks

  31. To get the installer app back again, all you have to do i download in google ibrickr .91. Then you have to click on aplications and browse applications. You go and find the summerboard application and install it. Then on your iphone you will be able to scroll through the icons and find installer. Once you have installer, you can uninstall all the applications you didnt want. It worked for me. Than you

  32. quick question…i download the installer.app…seems to work fine
    for the most part. But some of the applications i installed (suck as britannica or oxford dictionary), i can’t seem to find in my home menu.
    I know they got installed because when i got to installer under “uninstall”, they are visible there..
    Any idea where they are?

  33. ashman,
    To see the dictionary’s you need to install the Wedict application once you’ve installed it you will be able to use them.

  34. To answer those who have asked about disappearing applications … on the home screen of my iPhone there is a tiny white dot at the very bottom of the main panel of applications — right above the Mail and Safari icons. This, I believe, is the indicator that there are more apps to be seen. I get to the other apps by scrolling the entire apps panel to the left.

  35. I got my iPhone yesterday (in the UK) and its great, I did find the default configuration a bit limiting, but with iBrickr installed its just great now (so thanks for the tip).

    Edge rather than GPRS isn’t great but it all works, albeit a little slower, one thing though and thats the reason I’m posting here as you may be able to pass a message on ……………

    Gmail, the first time I loaded it on my previous phone it prompted me to download a gmail App which was quicker and better, no such luck with the iPhone, so if there is one and I’m missing a trick I’d like it, if not then maybe the guys should build one, as the iPhone one isn’t as good.

  36. I have a question.. very confused.. If i already downloaded and upgraded my iphone. Where there is the itunes button on there may i still download this third party system?


  37. I have encountered a problem with the apps in installer. I am using version 1.1.1 and have installed the following apps: Community Sources, Summerboard, Open HSS and BSD Subsystem. After doing I was able to install some other apps that were functional. From one day to the next I am now unable to install other apps. I try to install and I see it go through its process but once it completes it goes directly to the home screen without any changes actually occur. There are no icons. Secondly, some of my previous functional apps np longer want to open. When I click on an icon it blinks and goes back to the home screen. What do you suggest I do.

  38. Hey there… I was interested to know the following things, that I hope you will answer:
    First of all if we don’t have an Apple computer can’t we just do it on a windows xp or vista?
    Secondly, if we don’t have an apple computer can we (for example ask a friend to lend his mac and then do everything on his computer and after change the iTunes to a normal PC)?
    I hope if you can’t answer this Q’s someone in this site would.

  39. I just bought a iPhone a couple of days ago and its the new version. When will the install app or jailbreaking be coming out?

  40. i try to download on the desk top and right before its done it says bootcamp failed abort and makes me abort. and when i do the download on the phone but it say it alreadydownload but there is no icon

  41. I recently tried to use iBrickr on my iPhone and it completly fucked my phone the jailbreaker crashed in the middle and left my phone in a right state. It would display the logo then some kernel text then logo. I eventually got it into recovery mode and reinstalled the firmware. This however bricked the phone. And nothing could be done. After much trauMa and tears I decided to go back to the store and give them a bullshit story they changed the phone I reactivated it with my apple and 02 account and now I’m sat here typing this on my iPhone: moral is dont fuck about if you really can’t afford to be.

  42. ok if i download and run this program apptapp.. the next time i want to update my iphone using itunes will it mess up my phone??? can someone answer that?

  43. Bookmarked for when I get my iphone 😉

  44. Everything was going fine with my iphone. Then I got a msg and i pressed on the Icon to check it, the page opened then closed again to the main screen. I closed the phone and still the same problem persist. Anyone has an idea what to do. Thx

  45. can I do this on iphone version 1.1.3?

  46. Shawn Pennington

    I have an iPhone and I want to install games on it. Apple keeps giving me the run around about downloading games. I read your article and acording to you, you need an apple computer to download this installer.app program. My question is, is there a program for Windows that I can use?

  47. I have a iPhone 1.0.2. Installer was there on the screen. I intalled a few apps and after the number went beyond 16, installer has disappeared from the screen. How can i get it (and other icons) back on the screen? I havent installed summerboard yet thru installer. Help me get the installer back on my screen!!!

  48. I installed so much stuff I can’t find installer. No I know I should have put on summerboard-dock or any scrolling app. Basically I can’t install straight from Installer, nor remove any of the apps. Anysuggestion on how to install summerboard or Dock not via installer?

  49. hi, i got my iphone installed with the installer and installed quite a few programs on my iphone now my installer button has disappeared and i nedd it to un install the applications. i read through the forums and was told to download the ibrickr.91 i did so and i tried to connect my iphone through it and just could not access my iphone any other way i could go about trying to get back the installer button? the version for my iphone is 1.1.2

  50. people do not listen to all this crap I spent six hours trying to do this stupid “hacking” crap. All you hve to do is go to http://www.ziphone.of click download, pick whether you are running windows or if you are using an apple then save the file, while this is happening plug in your phone and then open the file you downloaded which you have to go to documents then my videos and its ussusllybin there ok then run Ziphone and it gives you options on what you want to do read wich one you want to do or which one Is appropriate, that then your phone will start having writing going down really fast dont worry its supposed to do that then it will reboot your phone and then your done I did it in literlly about five to eight minutes. That’s it then your phone is jailbroken unlocked everything. It has installer and you can download all you want. 🙂 peace

  51. oh yeah and I’m also running firmware 1.1.4. But if you can stay at 1.1.3. Becuase some apps you can’t use becuase you have to be using 1.1.3. 🙂

  52. This is the first thing I did to get my ipod touch to iphone status 1.1.3(of course without the phone capability!). Think the ipod touch/iphone is an awesome gadget, but wouldn’t really use it as a daily phone, would rather have something smaller to shove in my pocket!

    Like others, I was very surprised how quickly the hacks come along after each upgrade by Apple.

    Leaving mine on 1.1.3 at the mo, although will move to 1.1.4 soon.


  53. Hi there,
    When I got my iphone unlocked from a local vendor here, the application launcher was already installed. Not i m able to install application which were already there in my iphone (maybe the hacker had put that).
    I happily installed one game in it n its working perfectly fine. But as I install any new application, its doesnt show up on the home screen. But its showning in the “uninstall” screen.Home screen is now packed up with icons and i cant see new installed application. I m using windows XP. M sorry if m repeating same question asked by someone else, but i didnt get answer in the thread.

  54. @ Hassan..Mine was the same problem
    Install SummerBoard…
    ur problem will vanish

  55. Now I have a question..
    Should i try upgrading my iphone to 1.1.3..
    My firmware currently is 1.1.2..
    If yes, how should i do it?

  56. I have iPhone 1.1.2 unlocked with installer on springboard and also using iBrikr, but…When I try to use installer to install Apps direct from my iPhone, I get error about 90% of the time saying that “Package Download failed” and no matter how many times I try to get the apps i get the same message…I am in China, does this make a difference (paranoid government!)? If I use ibrickr it downloads and installs the S/W, my iphone reboots but nothing on the springboard even though it has rebooted…what am I doing wrong??? Probably something really stupid, sorry!


  58. Joel Sebastian

    I have Installer.app in my phone when i unlocked it but the problem i’m facing now is i can’t download and install any of the applications coz it just appear “main script error”. Can someone advise me how to go about solving this problem. My firmware is 1.1.4

  59. i have Iphone 3G .. i want to install games on it but it’s no have installer.. so tell me how can i install games and software

  60. So this only mentions 1.x and the last post is 12.08, so I take this doesn’t work anymore on 2.x or 3.x? If so take it down…it’s no use and only confuses us newbies!

  61. Lynn Richendollar

    I have an iphone 3g, but my computer won’t recognize it as a digital camera. I am unable to remove the pictures off the computer. From what I gather, when I plug the iphone in my computer is supposed to bring up autoplay to ask what I want to do, but it doesn’t with either mine or my daughters. I am running a new compaq with vista, any suggestions?

  62. Try clicking on my computer the phone should be displayed as a drive. From there you should be able to open it and transfer pictures back and forth.

  63. Buenas noches, le di reset a mi iphone y mi computadora no identifica el Tel. no funciona el Bluetooth, no puedo bajar musica por itunes, es decir no puedo hacer nada.

    Me poddian ayudar?, que puedo hacer??-


  64. i tried downloading it but for some reason its telling me that i need to disable ituneshelper. so i did that. now its telling my i need to close ituneshelper??? can someone help me

  65. Hey Matt, I was just curious I have double checked with all the creators of these apps that download movies straight to the iphone and they said “its impossible to get caught.” It seems like you would know alot about this issue that i am trying to ease my mind on. So what would you say? I know all these hackers and friends that are killing these downloads and adding like 30 movies a week. But im still unsure, everyone seems to be enjoying it and having fun. Should I be enjoying it too? Does anyone know? Please help. Thanks.

  66. ok so I jailbroke my iphone and now anything i download as far as apps go it does not add an icon for the app? its there because if I use the search feature i can find the app it just has no icon? what is it? i used the hide and unhide feature in SBSettings but that does not work? anyone have any ideas?

  67. i just tried it and when i run it it will start to download but then it says it cant find my i phone.. how do i fix that

  68. Hello,
    I was wondering if anyone can tell me a better way to unlock Iphone 3GS with 3.1 Firmware?

  69. Will someone tell me where i can get the installer app. I have looked everywhere for it and no repositories have it. Am I missing something?

  70. http://iphone.nullriver.com/beta/
    yhis link does not work