Columbia University students create software allowing native iOS apps to run on Android devices

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

For some time now, iOS users have cited the quality and quantity of third-party software available for the platform as an important factor in their choice of mobile devices. Over the years Android has amassed its own collection of apps and users have continued butting heads over which system had the better selection.

Now, six Columbia University students have bridged the gap between the two platforms with something called Cider (via The Next Web). Not to be confused with the other Cider software (for OS X), the Android version of Cider essentially fools iOS applications into believing they’re running on an actual iPhone or iPad.

The video below demonstrates the software in action on a Nexus 7. As you can see, iOS applications run side-by-side with Android software as if they were real, native Android apps. Unfortunately the performance seems to be pretty horrible at this point. Aside from the performance issues, there are a few other problems. iOS apps can’t access most hardware, such as the GPS and cellular connection. Apps that rely on these missing functions will have to work without them.


Of course, Cider is still very much a prototype, not a finished product. As the software matures, it’s possible that the limitations seen in the video can be overcome. The full paper on the project can be read on the Columbia University website, though it seems that at the time of this writing the website was down.

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  1. Claude-Michael Comeau - 9 years ago

    If they release this, the lawsuit will come so fast

    • myke2241 - 9 years ago

      i was thinking the same thing. I’m sure they are just hoping another company buys up the IP

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      They can’t release it. It’s useless unless you steal the applications from iOS which is kind of illegal. These guys will probably tell you that it’s just a project for them and they don’t advocate the stealing part, but in reality, these guys have just enabled theft on a large scale. Even larger if it gets smoothed out and ends up in the usable category.

      All the iOS hating Android types, will rush to download ripped off iOS software which will all of a sudden be interesting to them.

    • John Gibson - 9 years ago

      Does the ToS explicitly state that applications purchased on an iOS device can only be used on an iOS device? I’m sure it does but without it explicitly spelled out I could imagine it wouldn’t be illegal.

  2. markkwong - 9 years ago

    iOS 6 apps and slow.

  3. Brian Hatton - 9 years ago

    No 64 bit, how lame.

  4. Edison Wrzosek - 9 years ago

    Hope Apple drops the hammer on these guys fast. This has got to be illegal, or at the very least a violation of multiple Apple TOS stipulations!

    • John Gibson - 9 years ago

      I could see it being a violation of ToS but not sure a case could be made that it’s illegal… It is legal for Linux users to run Windows apps on Linux using Wine. What would be the distinction for why an iOS app on Android would be illegal when a Windows app running on Linux is not?

  5. masanori (@ImMasanori) - 9 years ago

    Why don’t they buy iPhone or iPad? :)

    • John Gibson - 9 years ago

      I’ve considered trying out Android in the past and have seen that about 95% of the apps I use are available over there. While I decided to stick with iOS it would be convenient if I was ever to switch to be able to cover the 5% of apps that I use on iOS that aren’t on Android making a switch over one where nothing was given up on the app side.

  6. kplayaja - 9 years ago

    Kill it with FIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRE!!!!!!

  7. mpias3785 - 9 years ago

    Apple’s lawyers are sharpening their pencils.

    • Tallest Skil - 9 years ago

      All those millions and they still use pencils?

      Well, I suppose they’re solid gold with osmium shavings for lead.

  8. Cole Shores - 9 years ago

    There is most likely nothing wrong with this as long as they white room implemented the APIs, granted if the Oracle precedent gets overturned.

  9. danbridgland - 9 years ago

    Similar with most games console emulators, Unless patented or copyrighted material is used without permission to create the emulator, the emulator itself is not illegal.

    The use of iOS apps on non Apple hardware is not illegal in itself, but surely against the Apple’s end user – terms of use, however as we all know, should this tool be released, most users of this emulator will almost certainly not own the iOS apps they’ll be using, sharing/redistribution off the apps without permission is illegal.

    We shouldn’t criticise these guys for demonstrating their creativity, it’s unlikely this emulator will go to market since the threat alone of legal action will close this thing down before the emulator gains any traction. After all, who can afford the legal costs of going head to head with Apple in a court room? This will encourage Apple to more effectively lock down their apps. After all It’s in the interest of their loyal third party developers. Notice that these are iOS 6 apps!

  10. clyde47 - 9 years ago

    either way would happen. apple would hire these people to become apple’s developers or apple will tweak its ‘kernel’ (im not sure) so these people cant access it. :-)

  11. mpias3785 - 9 years ago

    I would enjoy seeing some benchmark results. There are emulators and there are emulators that are usable. I recall running an x86 emulator on a 66MHz PPC Mac and Windows was so slow to be utterly unusable.

  12. Shogo Miyagi - 9 years ago

    Think Different.

    If Apple would buy this software and guys, It will be brilliant things. Because, a lot of developer will be easy to build mobile application, and nobody make Android application.

  13. Paul Wisner - 9 years ago

    This is a university research project to show what is possible and how it can be achieved.
    Awesome work creating compatibility between Linux and XNU – truly amazing.

  14. b9bot - 9 years ago

    And why would you want to do this? If you want to run IOS software buy and iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
    Seems like a worthless endeavor and a lot of trouble.

    • milindrao - 9 years ago

      Exactly. I mean how many people actually went to the moon. Seems like a lot of trouble, all this space exploration. We are humans and as a race we strive to keep pushing the envelop – just because we can.

  15. *breathing heavily*

  16. Teddie Miller - 9 years ago

    many people sell iphone accessories, such here, but little with android. many android are free. lol.

  17. Merry Muz - 9 years ago

    I love the Apple consumer thinking on display here in the comments. Eg: “And why would you want to do this? If you want to run IOS software buy and iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
    Seems like a worthless endeavor and a lot of trouble.”

    Zero curiosity about how things work and about what decisions Apple makes on behalf of users.

    When I was gifted a second hand 4s I would ask my apple-loyal friends “so can you show me how to change such-and-such?” (eg: how to silence message notification sounds without also silencing incoming calls) They would reply “of course just look in settings”, which of course I had already done, and more thoroughly than they ever had. So I say “I can’t find it can you actually show me please?” …they can’t find the option either.

    It is then hilarious to observe how quickly they change from “of course just look in settings” to asking me “why would you want to change that?” Apparently if Apple doesn’t provide the option then there is no conceivable reason for wanting to change it! They also quickly tell me “I like it the way if is”, as if that means there would be no one out there who would want the choice.

    The typical android or blackberry user has at least some understanding of what iOS offers that makes it appealing. The majority of iOS users in my experience do not have the same insight or perspective, or any interest in finding out.

    I don’t have a problem with iOS, it’s iOS users that are disappointing. The apple design philosophy is training millions of people to be really impressively densely stupid. On the other hand clearly the opposite response has been provoked in the case of these Columbia researchers.

    Then there is the issue of Apple’s outrageous tax avoidance. They profit massively from the existence of public infrastructure – internet, roads, education etc – but contribute almost nothing back to society. Joseph Steiglitz said their success as a company is based at least as much on innovation in tax avoidance as on innovation in technology and design. That is not something to be celebrated.

    • mpias3785 - 9 years ago

      I think you’re making too many generalizations about Apple users. iOS has certain advantages and Android has certain advantages and consumers have to make decisions regarding them. There are questions of security, ease of use, app selection, integration with other hardware and software and while a user may be far more concerned about streaming a video he just made on his phone to his television, you start asking about turning off an alert sound, something the user may find utterly insignificant.

      For the record, if you want to turn off message sounds in iOS 7, you can go to Settings ➔ Notification Center ➔ Messages ➔ Alert Sound and select None. There’s also a Do Not Disturb setting. Apple made a judgement call on how much granularity there should be to the settings. So did Google, Blackberry, Microsoft and the rest. Just because a user may not be completely conversant with every setting on a phone, that doesn’t mean that there’s no curiosity. The user may just have a different set of priorities than you.

      Regarding tax avoidance, there is a difference between tax avoidance and tax fraud. Stiglitz is an economist and his opinion is opinion, not law. Apple is responsible to its shareholders to pay as little tax as legally possible. Don’t you do the same come tax time?

  18. George Feb - 8 years ago

    Ok, so where to download this program???