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We had an app previously distributed as an private app via the Apple Enterprise Developer Program. This allowed us to put a direct link on an internal page allowing users to directly download the app to their device (similar to a side load on Android). This was needed as some employee and contractor owned devices were not managed by an MDM. This year Apple has asked us to use alternate mechanisms.

Of the new mechanisms, distributing the app through a Unlisted Direct link would have been the best option. (https://developer.apple.com/support/unlisted-app-distribution). In our reading, the app would first be submitted as a public app and when approved, we would submit a request for a direct link.

However, despite describing the intent in our app submission, the app review is stalled due to Guideline 3.2 below.

However no guidance is provided for how to approach the mechanism described in https://developer.apple.com/support/unlisted-app-distribution.

Q1: Anyone with any success with the Unlisted App Distribution mechanism? Did we miss a step? Should we have applied for an direct link ( https://developer.apple.com/contact/request/unlisted-app/ ) before submitting the App for review?

As a fall back strategy, we have activated an Apple Business Manager (ABM) account and are exploring distributing the app through that, but this appears to require that we enter the Apple Organization ID of all possible users. Most of our agents will not have Apple Organization IDs which require a DUNS number etc to create.

Q2: Is there a way to create a direct link for distribution from the Apple Business Manager mechanism that does not require the end user to have an Apple Business Manager account of their own?

(Redemption codes are not an option. We do offer authentication in our app, so are not that concerned with the link ending up with someone who is not allowed to use the app. However, since this is an legacy app, we are not able to ask users to provide their apple ids and generate codes etc.)

Any other suggestions for how to navigate this distribution issue?

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Q1 yes, Q2 yes

  • Side loading requires an enterprise developer account and carries strict conditions and repercussions Apple will exercise if you don’t understand the legal agreement and terms of that program and get caught.
  • VPP is needed for all other ABM/ASM redemptions that go through the B2B process and not the App Store process.

Unlisted apps work best for your use case if you can’t manage devices and AppleID with ABM/ASM consumers. It’s likely time for you to renegotiate the cost to support these legacy apps with your clients.

TLDR; Apple is very clear what direction they wish you to proceed.

  • make and submit one public app - do not set a release date
  • make and submit one private app
  • when the public app is approved for release, change it to unlisted

Use the private app for any ABM client you want (or skip that if you no longer need that). Use the unlisted app for non MDM (or MDM if you wish) devices that don’t have ABM entities.

It’s not clear where you’re hung up, Apple Developer support should be able to explain these two parallel paths if you still are blocked.

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