Delta's 10-year journey to the top of the App Store | The Vergecast

Delta's 10-year journey to the top of the App Store | The Vergecast

Intro (00:00:00)

  • David Pierce introduces the episode and explains his approach to adulting by creating a long-running list of maintenance tasks and tackling them periodically.
  • He mentions the upcoming discussion about the Delta emulator and its unexpected success on the App Store, followed by a segment on AI gadgets and apps and their practical use cases.
  • A Vergecast hotline question about the Rabbit R1 will also be addressed.
  • Delta, a retro game emulator, has gained significant popularity on the App Store in recent weeks.
  • Its story is longer and more interesting than expected, reflecting the evolution of the tech industry.
  • An interview with the creator of Delta will delve into the journey of the emulator and its implications for the future.

The Journey of Delta: from high school project to App Store phenomenon (00:02:15)

  • Riley Testut, the creator of AltStore and Delta, initially developed GBA4iOS as a personal Game Boy Advance emulator project in high school.
  • GBA4iOS gained popularity through GitHub and a third-party service that allowed users to install unsigned apps using an Enterprise certificate.
  • Due to high demand, Riley and his friend Paul Thorson created GBA4iOS 2.0, which could be installed by setting the device's date back 24 hours.
  • As the Enterprise certificate method became more complicated, Riley explored alternative methods like AltStore, enabling users to sideload apps using a Mac or Windows computer.
  • Delta, the successor to GBA4iOS, was released in 2022 and quickly became the most popular app on the Apple App Store, marking a significant milestone for emulators on iOS.

The birth and evolution of AltStore (00:09:13)

  • Riley Testut, the creator of Delta, initially received positive feedback from the App Review team at WWDC in 2015, suggesting that an emulator app like Delta could be approved for the App Store under certain conditions.
  • After developing Delta for a year, Testut was informed that emulators were not allowed on the App Store, leading him to find alternative methods of distribution through sideloading.
  • Testut discovered that students could develop and install apps for free using an Apple ID, which led to the creation of AltStore to bypass the restrictions of installing apps through Xcode.
  • AltStore gained popularity as an alternative app store for apps rejected by the App Store, including emulators, torrent clients, and unique projects like recreating classic iOS versions.
  • Delta's success is attributed to the Patreon model, which allows users to support the developer directly and gain access to beta versions of the app, eliminating paywalls and providing early access to new features.
  • Prior to Apple's announcement of third-party app store plans, Delta had four million users on AltStore and was preparing to release a new version (Delta 1.5), but faced uncertainty about the future due to Apple's evolving policies.

Reacting to Apple's third-party App Store plans (00:29:15)

  • Delta, an emulator app developed by Riley Testut, gained significant media attention in early 2023 due to its impending launch on the App Store.
  • Despite initial challenges and delays, AltStore, a third-party app store where Delta was hosted, was eventually launched on April 17th, 2023, and was well-received by users.
  • Apple's unexpected allowance of emulators in the App Store around the same time is seen as a strategic move in response to Delta's popularity and to maintain control over the narrative.
  • After a five-week delay, Delta was approved by Apple for the App Store and became an instant success, surpassing Testut's expectations and reaching the top of the App Store charts.
  • Testut attributes Delta's success to its accessibility, ease of use, and commitment to remaining free and accessible to as many people as possible.
  • Despite legal risks associated with emulation, Testut is confident in Delta's legality and responsible approach, setting it apart from other emulators that have faced legal challenges.
  • Testut's long-term goal is to make AltStore a reliable and widely used alternative to the App Store, potentially challenging Apple's dominance in the app store market.

Experimenting with AI voice notes (00:43:05)

  • Voice notes with accurate transcription software and AI summarization models enhance productivity.
  • OpenAI's Whisper improves voice transcription accuracy and robustness.
  • The Plaud Note, a $160 recorder, connects to a smartphone app for recording and processing audio, including phone calls.
  • AI-powered voice recording and transcription apps like Cleft Notes offer transcription, summarization, and formatting features.
  • AI audio summarization apps like Delta, Audiopen, and Whisper transcribe and summarize audio recordings, including voice notes, meetings, and YouTube videos.
  • Google Pixel phones have a built-in voice recorder with a summarize button, while Apple's Voice Memos app currently lacks transcription and summarization features.
  • AI audio summarization can be used for various purposes, including meeting notes, to-do lists, searchable transcripts, and journaling.
  • AI models simplify and summarize information, making them useful for tasks like understanding legal documents or podcast summaries.
  • Notion AI and similar tools organize and make sense of user-relevant information rather than attempting to understand all universal information.
  • The Vergecast podcast encourages listeners to send questions via the hotline number (866 Verge one1) or email ( and aims to answer at least one question on the show each week.

Rabbit R1 questions (Vergecast Hotline) (00:57:35)

  • The author questions why the unimpressive AI device, Rabbit R1, is not offered as a paid subscription app instead of a physical device.
  • There might be a market for non-smartphone devices that serve specific purposes, such as smart glasses or wearable AI devices, but the smartphone will remain the primary device.
  • Companies are rushing to develop AI platforms and APIs, similar to how they chased VR and AR in the past, but the future of AI is seen as an interconnected ecosystem rather than a single dominant platform.
  • Building a platform on top of iOS or Android is challenging due to the dominance of these platforms and their control over AI integration, so new companies entering the AI space may need to build their own hardware to avoid being stifled.
  • There are ongoing antitrust concerns and regulatory questions surrounding the dominance of Apple and Google in the tech industry, and the only way to build a company the size of Google or Apple is to do it outside of those companies.
  • The Vergecast team loves hearing from listeners and reads all emails and listens to all voicemails.
  • The Vergecast is produced by Andrew Marino, Liam James, and Will, and is a Verge production and part of the Vox Media Podcast Network.
  • Alex and Nilay will be back on Friday to discuss earnings, iPads, and more.

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