Popcorn Time, a video streaming service often referred to as the “Netflix for pirates,” is coming to the iPhone.
Copyright news site TorrentFreak reports that one of the teams working on Popcorn Time is planning to launch a standalone iOS app that will let users easily watch pirated movies and TV shows on the go — and they won’t need to jailbreak their device to install it.
Popcorn Time was launched in 2014, and is powered by torrent technology. Rather than downloading a file from a single source, pieces of it are drawn from everyone on the network and assembled on the downloader’s computer, who, in turn, seeds the file to others. This decentralised structure makes it resistant to censorship and is widely used to share pirated material, although the technology also has many legitimate uses.
Popcorn Time’s main innovation is to let users stream video live as it downloads, instead of having to wait for the entire file to finish, as well as a polished and easy-to-navigate user interface. Torrenting can be fiddly and off-putting to non-tech people, but the service makes it as simple as browsing Netflix — hence the “Netflix for pirates” label.
An iOS version of Popcorn Time is due to launch today, developed by popcorn-time.se (there are multiple versions of Popcorn Time). It’s not available in the App Store — as you might expect, Apple takes a dim view of apps that help facilitate piracy (even if they don’t host the content themselves). But the developers appear to have a workaround, letting users install the app via a Windows computer.
Significantly, this can be done even without “jailbreaking” the iPhone — hacking its software to allow unauthorised downloads. TorrentFreak writer Ernesto says he’s tried an early version of the installer software, and it does indeed work as described. It’s being developed by a separate team to Popcorn Time, and could feasibly used to install any number of other unauthorised apps onto iPhones and iPads.
Apple is likely to move quickly to try and stop the installer from working. The Cupertino company works hard to maintain its “walled garden” app ecosystem, not allowing anything on its iOS devices that it hasn’t vetted first. But the Popcorn Time developers say they are confident. “The installer guys have no doubt that this will be a long journey, playing ‘cat and mouse’ with Apple that probably won’t like them breaking their closed eco-system,” the developers told TorrentFreak. “But seeing their work now and future updates for the installer they’re already working on, we’re sure they’re ready for any obstacle Apple will throw their way.”
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment, and will update when it responds.