iOS loophole lets you play Zelda, Mario, Pokemon on iPhone

In the past, playing any emulated game on an iOS device meant one thing: jailbreaking. But that’s the past and today’s news, care of Readwrite, shows us that a non-jailbroken iDevice can run a GameBoy Advance emulator, so games like Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Castlevania, all exclusive Nintendo properties, are now fully playable on Apple’s platform.

It’s all from a loophole that “independent iOS developer” Riley Testut’s exploited.  His app, GBA4iOS is freely available and can be installed in a matter of minutes, if you know what you’re doing. The app is based on long-standing GBA emulator gpSphone.

As for the installation instructions, here’s what Testut recommends:

“This version can be installed simply by tapping the button below on your iOS Device, or compiled directly in Xcode and deployed just like any other app. No jailbreak OR developer account required :)”

What button? This button. Clicking it within an iOS device starts the installation process.

GBA installer

And there’s almost nothing Apple can do to close the loop. The explanation can be boiled down to this: Apple iOS Developer Enterprise Program affords eager devs the opportunity to sideload apps without jailbreaking. For a beta app to run on iOS, the devices Unique Device Identifier (UDID) must be known by the developer so that they can provision the app for a particular phone. In other words, the developer provisions each app on an individual bases per phone. There are few restrictions surrounding this, and Testut takes full advantage of this fact, as did we.

As the whole process uses MacBuildServer, a completely legal method of pushing out beta apps, Apple’s only option would be to increase the restrictions around this effortless install app. The issue Apple runs would total alienation of the MacBuildServer community, which isn’t the smartest move. Nintendo could even step in an order Apple to close this loophole.

But, jailbroken iOS devices have been running not only GameBoy emulators, but similar Super Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation 1 and 2 apps for years now and the console makers have had little success in curbing the rampant piracy. We had to test it for ourselves to see what the fuss was about.

GBA4iOS installed in under a minute and for proof of concept, we tested a GBA ROM (the raw file format of GameBoy Advance cartridges). It worked like a dream.

GBA Emulator

How cool?

Of course, playing emulated games for the most part is illegal and Gearburn doesn’t condone this practice at all. Only freeware ROMs are legal for emulated gaming, but the majority of users will flock to the commercially available games. Such is the nature of the internet.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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