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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 '19 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 '19 at 13:46
  • Interesting! Looks like it goes against what is advertised then! Thanks for sharing Chris – Aleksander Niedziolko Aug 7 '19 at 8:21
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Yes this will work, as long as you have a DUNS number for your business, and your users have the same Apple ID country as your business is registered in (Users can change this, if they have no credit on their account and no apple subscriptions)

I believe @duskwuff is unfamiliar with the B2B program (different from the public app store and enterprise programs).

However, you will need to keep track of which codes you have given out, and you will need to register as an Apple Business (business.apple.com) with your DUNS number, to buy codes from your apple developer account. AFAIK these have to be different Apple IDs, so you're not purchasing from yourself.

Additionally, if your users download the app using a redemption code, they will not be able to see the app details page (App Store will give a generic error). However, auto-updates should work like normal, manual updates should work from the "Purchased" section of the app store, and new VPP codes/links can be redeemed as well, as a hack to update the app.

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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.

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  • 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 '19 at 12:24
  • No, that isn't true. Downloading an app with a promo code doesn't affect how updates work. – duskwuff -inactive- Jun 12 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 -inactive- Jun 14 '19 at 17:58

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