Massive TestFlight 'teraleak' could bring thousands of classic iPhone apps and games back from the dead in a huge win for digital preservationists

App Store on iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

It's easy to forget just how long people have been making great apps and games for the iPhone's App Store, but it's also easy forget just how many of those bits and bytes are no longer available for download. Some of them were updated and older versions became obsolete, while some just disappeared for whatever reason. But for a lucky few — more than a few, in fact — there might be a lifeline.

That lifeline comes in the form of a giant leak, dubbed 'teraleak,' that has seen thousands of iPhone apps and games appear on the Internet Archive. They're from a period of years between 2012 and 2015 and appear to have been TestFlight beta builds that were stored on incorrectly configured servers that opened them up to scraping. And now they're all available for download for free.

But while this is a huge deal for those who worry that we are losing a generation of software due to the lack of any physical media, it's less interesting for those of us who just want to play an old game that we miss from the good old days — these games won't work on modern iPhones, unfortunately.

TestFlight downloads

TestFlight is the system that Apple offers app developers by way of a system for managing beta testing. It allows apps to be downloaded outside of the App Store before they're ready for public consumption, and it is actually software that Apple bought back in 2014. Before then, the whole thing was a web service and it appears that might have been what made this leak possible.

First reported by Eurogamer, the leak contains a plethora of beta versions of some of the world's most famous apps and games including Instagram and, of course, the Angry Birds series. Infinity Blade 2 is also present, too. And while actually wading through the leak isn't as easy as it could be, one X account relating to the so-called teraleak has been picking through things.

With so many of our favorite apps and games present it does remind us that we might never again get the chance to play some of the games from such a golden age in mobile gaming. But that could one day change and now there are tons of games just waiting to be played.

App preservation

People have been collecting software for as long as it's been around but while shelves of game boxes are easy to come by, that isn't the case with things downloaded from digital app stores, including Apple's own. And when you can't put a cartridge into a game console and play it, as you can with an old Game Boy, you're left wondering what will happen to the hits of yesteryear.

Leaks like this are a real boon for those who collect digital versions of titles like Cut the Rope, for example, but we're still a ways off being able to play these titles. That could change in the future, of course, and actually having the software to hand is a key part of that.

For now, all we can do is wonder at the fact that what appears to have been a misconfigured Amazon cloud server seems to have brought some huge games back from the dead, even if we can't actually play them ourselves.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.