distributing ios apps

Distributing iOS Apps – An Overview

iOS is a very secure operating systems. One reason for this is that iOS apps can’t just be installed on every device as you want to – instead there are certain distribution ways you can choose from. 

App Store Distribution

This is of course the most common way. Every iOS user can install every app from the App Store as long as the operating system version and device type is supported. So the App Store is the way to present your app to a huge audience.

It’s not possible to just upload an app to the App Store though – instead, you first have to upload the IPA file to iTunes Connect, and then submit the app to Apple for an app review. Apple will check a lot of things, for example if you are using hidden API, which isn’t allowed. It the app is not passing the review, you will be informed about the problem. After resolving these problems, you can resubmit your app. These app reviews used to take about five days, but recently this has changed to just two one or two days on average.

The whole app store review process sounds a little bit complex. However, the review increases the quality of the apps within the app store massively – and that’s good news for both iOS developers and users.

To be able to upload an app to the App Store you need an Apple Developer account. Then, the app has to be signed for App Store publishing.

AdHoc Distribution

For this way of distribution you also need an Apple Developer account. You can create a so-called AdHoc provisioning profile your you app, that allows you install the app on up-to 100 devices for each device family (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV). All of these devices have to be registered in your account and also the 100 devices limit rule applies to the whole account.

After you have signed your app with this AdHoc provisioning profile, it can be installed on all these devices, for example by using iTunes or Apple Configurator.

Typically, this type of distribution is used to provide a test version of your app for a small amount of people. However, after the introduction of TestFlight, AdHoc distribution has become rarer.

TestFlight Distribution

TestFlight is another option to provide test versions of your app. As before, you also need an developer account. Like for app store distribution, apps for TestFlight distribution are uploaded to iTunes Connect. But instead of submitting it to App Store review, you submit it for external beta testing. There will be also a review by Apple.

Then, you can provide the app up to 2000 testers (this number will be increased later this year). These users have to be registered by their email address in iTunes Connect. They can install the app by using the TestFlight app from the App Store.

You can use TestFlight also for internal testing. In this case, there is no review by Apple. But only members of your developer account can access and install the app.

Enterprise Distribution

This way is a little bit different. Instead of an App Store developer account, you need an Enterprise Account. Then you can create a so-called Enterprise provisioning profile. Apps signed with this kind of profile can be installed on any number of devices within your company. A common way of installing an enterprise app within a company is by using mobile device management (MDM).

Title image: @  cybrain / shutterstock.com

Book Tip

Big Nerd Range Guide: iOS Programming: Excellent introduction to iOS development. Some programming experience is recommended.

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