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I've made a small app for the company I work at and I'm looking to distribute it. It isn't going to very many people, less than 100. I don't want to use it as a B2B app as then I'd need to setup a server and setup device management. It seems I'm able to distribute promo codes and users can install the app through the app store that way, even though the app is a 'custom app for business'.

Is this a reliable method of distribution?

Will users be able to update?

  • Hey Chris, I'm looking at a way to deploy an app privately to a select group of users (probably a few thousand) via Custom Apps promo codes. According to their recent wwdc video: "(...)Custom Apps actually allows you to reach a broader audience, including business affiliates. (...)You can also take advantage of the App Store's auto update infrastructure, features like TestFlight and App Store Connect tools. (...)". Below you mention users not being able to update with this method, would you mind sharing your experience? I am planning to experiment soon myself. – Aleksander Niedziolko Aug 5 at 8:41
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    Hey @AleksanderNiedziolko, when I did this, my users who had downloaded via promo code did not receive app updates. I wound up adding public facing features and making the app public. – Chris Aug 6 at 13:46
  • Interesting! Looks like it goes against what is advertised then! Thanks for sharing Chris – Aleksander Niedziolko Aug 7 at 8:21
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Is this a reliable method of distribution?

No. It won't work at all -- an application that is not useful for the general public will not be approved for distribution through the App Store.

You will need to distribute this app through the Enterprise program.

  • It seems you're right @duskwuff . Though users can download the app through the app store using a generated promo code, they don't receive updates. – Chris Jun 12 at 12:24
  • No, that isn't true. Downloading an app with a promo code doesn't affect how updates work. – duskwuff Jun 12 at 16:31
  • Normally I'd agree with you, but this app is in a strange position. The app isn't available on the app store because it's a 'custom app for business'. Though I can make promo codes that can be used in the app store, it seems Apple leaves the distribution of updates up to the business' MDM system. The very system I'm trying to avoid. – Chris Jun 14 at 14:12
  • I've decided instead to add some public facing features alongside features only available to users with higher roles. Hopefully this will be accepted. – Chris Jun 14 at 14:14
  • You can't create promo codes for an app that isn't in the App Store. And no, including internal-only features in your app is likely to be a fast track to rejection -- 2.3.1: "Don’t include any hidden or undocumented features in your app.", 3.1.1 "Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality". – duskwuff Jun 14 at 17:58

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