iOS App Deployment Options

Clients often ask ‘how can I deploy my app internally so just our staff sees it?’ Or ‘how can we sell our app to other companies without listing on the App Store?’ This article explains the different iOS app deployment options and pros/cons of each.

There are basically three ways to deploy your application. Either it goes into the public App Store where everyone can see it, a B2B deployment, or an Enterprise deployment where it is only available to your internal staff.

Option 1: Public App Store

The App Store is the huge marketplace for apps that we’ve all grown familiar with. As of this writing, there are over 1 million apps in the App Store. This is where we download all the major publicly available apps from Salesforce to Angry Birds. Every iOS user has access to the App Store and has their credit card setup with their iTunes account.

Pros

  1. Exposure to largest user base
  2. Opportunity to be ‘Featured’ or in the top rankings

Cons

  1. Competing against 1 million+ other apps
  2. Goes through Apple’s approval process prior to each release
  3. Can only filter user groups by OS version and country

Option 2: B2B Deployment

B2B deployment is where you can sell your app directly to businesses by registering their Apple IDs or providing them with redemption codes. B2B apps cannot be listed in the App Store (and vice versa) so it’s one or the other. There are opportunities to make different versions with different functionality, but B2B apps go through the same approval process as regular App Store apps.

Apps distributed via B2B have the same pricing model as the public App Store meaning they can be priced anywhere from free to $999.99. They are also created using the same Apple Developer account that is used for App Store deployment.

Pros

  1. Easy distribution directly to specific users via Apple’s Volume Purchasing Plans for Business or Education
  2. Ability to heavily customize the app for specific organizations beyond what would be suitable in the public App Store

Cons

  1. Goes through Apple’s approval process prior to each release
  2. Restricted to using public APIs and functionality

Option 3: Enterprise Deployment

If you’re looking to launch an app that is explicitly for your employees then Enterprise Deployment is ideal. This allows you to create a completely custom app that doesn’t have to go through Apple’s approval process. This means you don’t have to worry about their policies and can push the limits of your app beyond what is suitable for the public app store.

Pros

  1. Doesn’t go through Apple’s approval process meaning there are no delays and you aren’t limited to typical policies
  2. Can distribute the app internally without first registering devices
  3. Utilize advanced enterprise features for enhanced encryption, VPN, and MDM integration

Cons

  1. No exposure to users outside of your organization
  2. Requires an Apple Enterprise Developer account to publish apps internally

(image credit: florianplag)