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    Private App Distribution: How To Distribute Custom iOS Apps

    The App Store empowers iOS users worldwide to discover a plethora of trusted apps for their personal and professional use. But, not every app present on the Apple App Store is meant for everyone.

    Did you know that there are certain business apps present on the App Store that are tailor-made to meet the business needs of specific organizations? These apps are called custom iOS apps.

    Generally, the Apple App Store reviews all apps thoroughly before making them available for users. The App Store review guidelines oppose having in-house B2B apps on the App Store.

    The intention behind it is that every app on the App Store should be such that it can be leveraged by the mass audience. Yet, there is a way to distribute your private apps using the Apple App Store. This article tells you how.

    What Are Custom iOS Apps?

    Custom iOS apps are specially designed by you or a third party vendor for your organization and can be explicitly distributed via the Apple App Store to people of your organization without making the custom apps public for all.

    Regular users cannot view these apps on the App Store. Only specific people in your organization, such as IT admins and content managers have the power to locate and distribute these apps.

    How Do Custom Apps Work?

    Custom iOS apps can be submitted to the App Store via App Store Connect which is a portal for the management of apps sold on the Apple App Store.

    The App Store Connect reviews an organization’s custom apps through its stringent guidelines and once approved, it can be made available to selective organizations on their Apple Business Manager/Apple School Manager accounts. 

    To allow the distribution of custom apps using the App Store, it has to undergo a stringent review process. Your enterprise app is checked for its security framework, such as an authentication mechanism for your sensitive business information.

    Further, Apple signs into your app and operates the app to test it for compliance with its review guidelines. Once approved, the members of your organization can view your app under the Apps & Books section of the ABM/ASM.

    Private App Distribution Using Apple App Store Connect

    You can define specific organizations and the private status of your enterprise apps, as well as make them available on ABM/ASM accounts using App Store Connect in just a few simple steps.

    1. Log in to the Apple Store Connect portal.
    2. Navigate to the Apps section and add your enterprise app using the ‘new app’ option.
    3. Enter app details such as the app name, platform, user access type, etc.
    4. Under the pricing & availability section, choose ‘private’ as the app distribution method.
    5. Specify the organization IDs to which your app must be visible on the ABM account.
    6. Allow your app to undergo the review process.
    7. Once approved, your app will be visible on the ABM account to the pre-selected organizations.

    Scalefusion for Private iOS App Distribution

    Scalefusion iOS MDM empowers IT admins to silently distribute their enterprise iOS apps on multiple devices effortlessly. You can easily upload an IPA file or a plist file and push it on all the device profiles of your choice.

    Pre-requisites:

    1. Your enterprise app
    2. Scalefusion account
    3. Apple Store Connect account
    4. Access to the Apple Business Manager portal
    5. Apple VPP setup on the Scalefusion dashboard

    How to Distribute Private iOS Apps Using the Scalefusion Dashboard

    1. Once you have created your enterprise app on the App Store Connect and processed it through App Store’s review, your private app will be visible on the ABM account to your organization, or any other organization that you have specified.
    2. You can log into your ABM account and navigate to the custom apps section.
    3. You need to purchase the app of your choice from the list of available custom apps by entering details in the ‘buy licenses’ section.
    4. Log into your Scalefusion account.
    5. Visit the Application Management section available on the left-hand side feature list.
    6. Click on the Enterprise Store and click on upload new app > upload iOS app.
    7. Scalefusion gives you the option to upload or drop your IPA file or a plist link.
    8. Once the upload is complete, Scalefusion validates the file to ensure that the enterprise app is packaged using an over-the-air distribution method and has a valid enterprise distribution certificate.
    9. Once your IPA file is approved by Scalefusion, you can view the app on your dashboard.
    10. You can then choose to publish this app to all the device profiles of your choice.
    11. You can also update apps to the latest versions using the same method or uninstall them.
    12. The app installation and updating are done silently on the user’s end.

    How to distribute apps to iOS devices over the air?

    Closing Lines

    Private app distribution saves time and effort for your IT admins. With Scalefusion, you can simplify your private app distribution and streamline the deployment and management of your enterprise apps on your managed iOS devices.

    Schedule a live demo with our product experts to explore how you can distribute your custom iOS apps with Scalefusion. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What is private app distribution?

    Distributing your custom iOS apps to specific users, bypassing the public App Store. Ideal for employee apps, internal tools, or pilot programs.

    2. Why use private app distribution?

    • More control over app availability and updates.
    • Increased security for sensitive data within the app.
    • Targeted deployment to specific user groups or devices.

    3. How to distribute private iOS apps?

    • Apple Business Manager: Requires an organization account and MDM solution like Scalefusion.
    • Custom App Distribution: Submit your app through App Store Connect for closed distribution.
    • Ad-hoc provisioning: More technical, often used for testing and debugging.

    4. Can I track usage of private apps?

    Yes, with MDM solutions like Scalefusion you can:

    • Monitor app launches, user activity, and device performance.
    • Set usage policies and restrictions for specific groups or apps.
    • Generate reports and gain insights into app adoption and performance.

    5. Is private app distribution secure?

    Yes, using Apple’s official methods and MDM tools like Scalefusion ensures:

    • Secure app delivery over encrypted channels.
    • Device authentication and user access control.
    • Data encryption at rest and in transit.

    6. What are the limitations of private app distribution?

    • Apps are not searchable or discoverable in the public App Store.
    • Updates require manual re-distribution to users.
    • May involve additional costs for Apple developer accounts and MDM solutions.
    Shambhavi Awate
    Shambhavi Awate
    Shambhavi is a Senior Content Writer at Promobi Technologies with prior experience in commercial writing, creative planning, product cataloging, and content strategizing. She is a "Biotechnologist turned writer" and believes that the inception of great ideas happens over coffee.

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