Airport operator: An interview with Jordan Singer

Apple’s App Store isn’t the only place to find apps for your iPad. There’s a whole world of apps that exist parallell to the App Store, either because they’re not done yet, or because they clash with some Apple policy. You can obviously use side-loading and various services for that, but there’s one alternative store that stand out, I think, and that’s Airport.

Airport is the brainchild of Jordan Singer. I check in there a couple of times a week. It was there I stumbled upon TaskFox, reviewed earlier this week, an app I’d missed in the App Store thus far.

Apps on Airport are limited to TestFlight versions, meaning that it’s a great way to discover apps in beta, or looking for beta testers. That doesn’t mean that you can only find Airport apps on Airport, the app developers can, and often do, submit them to the App Store as well.

I did a short interview with Airport creator Jordan Singer, discussing Airport, and why it was conceived in the first place.

Jordan Singer

Airport is an app to discover TestFlight apps. That sort of describes the purpose of starting it, I guess, since it’s what it does, and what you did. Still, how come you decided to put in the work? There are, after all, plenty of lists and ways to promote TestFlight apps online. What were, and are, your ambitions with Airport?
Airport was conceived around the summer of 2020 when TestFlight’s were becoming increasingly popular. It seemed like new betas were popping up everywhere, and there was major FOMO if you weren’t invited to test an app. Airport was looking to be an iOS-native App Store experience exclusively focused around TestFlight apps for those wanting to try new betas. It was and still is mostly an experiment in building a community around TestFlight and beta testing through an app. More here.

Were you expecting Apple to shut down Airport at any time?
I knew that Airport was sensitive given Apple’s existing App Store policies and how it pushed the limits in several areas. For example, Airport is intentionally designed to look similar to the actual App Store (which Apple isn’t happy about) and there’s also sensitivity as it relates to distributing 3rd party apps (despite those apps being Apple-approved TestFlight betas). We went back and forth with Apple to get Airport on the App Store but ultimately settled on it living in TestFlight-only for now.

Did you consider rebranding it to be less like the App Store, design-wise?
We gave redesigning the app some thought so that it appeared less like the App Store, but ultimately there are only so many ways to design lists of apps and app detail views that it felt like overkill.

Some apps only exist outside of the App Store, sometimes rightly so, but otherwise it might be due to App Store policies that could be argued, perhaps. Do you think Apple are overly zealous in their App Story policies?
I think the App Store policies are mostly justified and centered around trying their best to not confuse users. You can imagine if someone stumbles upon Airport in the App Store, because it looks so similar, they could confuse it for the real App Store. I’d love to see Apple pull back on some of their policies, and we’re not even getting into the in-app-purchase territory.

You’ve got a collection of apps living in something called lilOS. Do you have any further plans for that? It’d make a pretty cool Android launcher, if nothing else…!
lil OS was mostly just bundling all of the lil apps from into a single app. Apple also isn’t happy with this one, it’s pretty much a fun side project for me.

Finally, what’s next for Airport?
The Airport community continues to grow with new TestFlight betas being added everyday. We’ve since launched the web experience at as a fallback for the iOS app given we’re limited to 10,000 TestFlight users. New apps will continue to be added, so developers can get feedback and testers can try new betas.

Thanks for taking the time, Jordan! 

I urge you all to check out Airport, and Jordan’s other projects as well, for that matter – he’s a productive guy, to say the least. Oh, and do follow Jordan (@jsngr) on Twitter, too.