Cydia is a thriving underground market for iPhone applications rejected or disallowed by Apple. The store works much like the normal App store, but is only available on jailbroken phones.
Feel free to swear, use overlapping apps, or other forbidden fruit -- only on Cydia, though

Prominent iPhone hacker Jay Freeman, known as "Saurik", saw a booming business market where Apple saw content to squash.  Five months ago he launched a reinvigorated Cydia, an underground app store available (only) for users with jailbroken iPhones.  The store caters to all the apps that Apple rejects.

So just how big is the market for these underground apps?  According to Mr. Freeman of the 40 million iPhone and iPod Touch, approximately 4 million are jailbroken and have Cydia installed.  With only 15 paid apps on the store, it earn $220,000 in its first five months.  And the site receives 470,000 visits a day.

Some of them might be coming for Google Mobile, a port of the rejected Google Voice.  Following Apple banning Google Voice, Sean Kovacs, an iPhone developer commented, "Looks like Apple and AT&T pissed off a lot of people.  I’ll be releasing GV Mobile v1.2 on Cydia for free today or tomorrow."

Now Google Voice is freely available via Cydia.  Kim Streich, a developer whose app 3G Unrestrictor earned $19,000 in sales in two weeks on Cydia.  She developed a $2 app, which allows SlingPlayer, the app that allows you to broadcast TV to your phone to work in 3G, something Apple banned in the official app.  She states, "People are so annoyed by Apple and their shit, and if you give them opportunity to go around it, then they’ll even pay for it.  It’s just amazing what you can do on such a little cellphone, and Apple just forbids customers from doing these things, and it’s just a shame.  That’s why I’m so happy there’s a Cydia store."

Any developer is free to contact Freeman and quickly have access to the store.  This setup is much more hassle free than Apple's miles of regulation and potential rejection -- though it is much more unregulated as well.  And while "the sky's the limit" sort of stories of apps making millionaires won't be found on the site yet, the potential of cashing in big on the new site is very real.  With less apps in the store and a smaller, but more loyal fanbase, the site is a promising ecosystem.

Jonathan Zdziarski also praised the site.  He had an app iErase, which sold only 91 copies on the app store.  A reworked Cydia version has sold 694 copies.  He states, "I guess you could say the App Store is kind of like Wal-Mart, with more crap than you’d ever want to buy.  And Cydia is like the general store that has everything you want and need, from fresh cuts of meat to those homemade cookies you can’t get anywhere else."

Rana Sobhany, vice president of Medialets, an iPhone app analytics company, though predicts that the site is doomed for failure.  She states, "There have been all these apps downloaded in the App Store because it’s easy for consumers to find, download and pay for apps.  This model is new because Apple has been training people how to download music to their iPods for years.  If you’re hoping to reach the mainstream, the best you can hope for is your app catches on fire and charts high enough for you to make a windfall.  Essentially you aim for the jackpot, and if you don’t hit that, it’s not going to make you a living."

A more realistic danger, though, is legal threats from Apple.  If Apple can convince the U.S. government to outlaw iPhone jailbreaking on terrorist and drug dealing concerns, that could spell the end for Cydia, as a site that obviously condones the practice.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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