I have a Developer Program subscription ("Enrolling as an Individual", not as an Organization).

With MacOS, it's possible to code-sign / notarize an app, and ship the .dmg / .pkg to customers, without using the AppStore. Since the package is code-signed, the installation process is normal, with no "Unknown developer" dialog box.

Is there a similar feature for iOS? Can we distribute apps to iPhone and iPad users without using the AppStore?

  • Hi, if the purpose of distribution outside the Appstore is just that it's not discoverable on the store, you can try unlisted listings on the App Store which require a link to download the app on iOS (this feature was added quite recently) developer.apple.com/support/unlisted-app-distribution
    – LCZ
    Jul 23, 2022 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


It is technically possible to distribute apps to iPhones and iPads without going through the App Store.

However, as you indicate that you want to distribute the apps to iPhone/iPads not owned by you or your organization, it narrows the options.

If you want to distribute software to internal test users or external beta testers (or similar), you can use Apple's TestFlight. It allows you to distribute your app to both insider and outsiders without limiting what the app can do compared to an App Store distributed app.

There is however limits to how widely you can distribute apps via TestFlight:

Essentially you can have up to 100 users that are internal (i.e. if you enroll as an organization this would be employees or dedicated extern testers). You can distribute apps to those almost without any delay and without going through a length review process.

You can also distribute your app to up to 10,000 external users. However those apps must go through a (shortened) review, and this means that there is some delay to the distribution. Often you will need to wait 12-24 hours to get the first version of an app approved. Updates are usually quicker.

Finally, TestFlight limits the duration these apps can be used. Essentially when an app is approved for external testing, it expires 90 days later. At that point it will not run on a users device. This means that to ensure people can keep using the app without interruptions, you must release an update 4 times a year approximately.

If you were enrolled in the App Store program as an Enterprise, you also have the option of distributing apps to your users without going through the App Store. Here you can deploy apps directly from MDM, email, web sites, etc. without going through any review process. However, you can only distribute apps to your own employees (i.e. devices owned by the enterprise). You cannot use this method to distribute apps to customers.

  • Google and Facebook tried deploying apps using the Enterprise program to normal users (not employees) for nefarious reasons (collecting user data, fake VPN etc), therefore getting their certificates permanently revoked and their developer accounts suspended for some time. During that time, all of the Enterprise apps on their accounts stopped working and their App Store apps disappeared. They had to code sign everything again with new certificates and thankfully stop doing their nonsense. Mar 10, 2021 at 15:06

In a word no.

The only way to distribute iOS apps (without a jailbreak) is via the app store.

There are (currently) lawsuits about this but for the time being the only legit way is via the App Store.

Edit--- As commenters pointed out there is Apple's Testflight and Enterprise certificates but both come with significant limitations not present in App Store apps, or in phones that are jailbroken.

  • Or via TestFlight as long as you can live with the restrictions.
    – nohillside
    Mar 9, 2021 at 17:01
  • There are also enterprise certificates, if you're distributing an app for use within an organization. But OP would probably know about that already if it was an option. There's also AltStore, in theory... Mar 9, 2021 at 17:03
  • Thank you @SteveChambers. For completeness, can you include the options mentioned in the comments? "TestFlight", "Entreprise certificates", "AltStore", etc. (even if those don't apply to me, but it helps to get the big picture)
    – g6kxjv1ozn
    Mar 10, 2021 at 10:45
  • @Wowfunhappy Can you post an answer with AltStore, it would be useful to know more :)
    – g6kxjv1ozn
    Mar 10, 2021 at 10:46
  • I think mentioning a barely related, ongoing lawsuit that could take years to unfold with completely unknown results is not really appropriate for this answer. Epic Games wants to have its own app store so they can stranglehold people like they did with Steam on PC. They are not advocating for users being able to side load apps. They actually criticize Google for the side loading experience on Android. The other lawsuits are derived from this EGS fight. Even if successful, the answer would not be "sell directly to customers", as asked. It would be "Choose Apple App Store or Epic Games Store" Mar 10, 2021 at 13:41

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