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A Clear Guide to App Distribution on iOS


There are a lot of rules in Apple’s world, particularly when it comes to distributing apps.

They like to keep a tight control on products made for their platform — unlike the Android marketplace, which is open to most anyone. People can argue about the validity of Apple’s distribution rules all day long, but we simply accept the world as it is and get to work within these constraints.

iPhone in HandBut as technology and the apps created for it evolved, so do Apple’s rules for distributing those apps — and that can muddy the waters for those trying to keep up. So here are the current rules for getting your iOS app in users’ hands:
First, you’ll need to register with the Apple Developer Program. Apps require a certificate to run on iOS devices, and Apple will issue certificates only to registered developers. Depending on the program you choose, it’ll cost you between $99 and $299 per year to register. These programs will enable you to distribute through the App Store and internally, but your ad-hoc distribution abilities will vary based on the program you choose.

Standard Developer Program ($99/year)

This program is good for testing your app with just a few people. You can also distribute it on an ad-hoc basis by e-mailing the app to people. They’ll simply drop it into iTunes and sync their iPhone or iPad to load it.

But for testers are able to use the app, you’ll have to collect their device’s UDID — akin to a serial number (There are several apps that will help you collect user’s UDID such as UDID Send).  We won’t get too technical here; basically, this is a good program for distributing your app to a limited group of test users for less than $100 per year.

Enterprise Developer Program ($299/year)

The enterprise program is only for serious businesses: You’ll need to be at least an LLC or S-Corp etc, and have a D-U-N-S Number.

DUNS_BrowserBut if you satisfy those requirements, it’s even easier to distribute your app. You won’t have to register each user’s device or sync through iTunes. Simply post your app to your company’s server and send a link to your users just as you would for a PDF or any other file. Users click that link from Safari on their iOS device, and poof! The app is magically installed!

Apple created this program because many businesses

wanted to make apps for in-house use only, and if there are hundreds of employees on board, it’s not realistic to have to register each device’s UDID.

What’s to stop you from creating your own App Store and selling your app to anyone using this method? Apple thought of that already: If they catch you doing something

like this, they’ll kick you out of the developer program immediately.

The App StoreiPhoneAppStore

Once you’ve registered with one of these developer programs, of course, you’ll also be able to have your app listed in the App Store. But it still has to make it through Apple’s rigorous submission and approval process — and that’s another post for a different day. Stay tuned!