Options to Distribute and Install an iOS App

November 8, 2012 | 3 min Read

So you have build an iOS app using Tabris or another technology of your choice? Then you should know how to get your app to your users.

In order to distribute an iOS app, the following things are needed:

  • A Mac or access to an OS X machine like provided by MacinCloud
  • An up-to-date version of Xcode
  • The Xcode project of the app to be distributed

… this is the essential basic setup.

In addition to the three points above, most other requirements depend on your deployment scenario.

Without any Apple Subscription (free)

If you want to get started with iOS development, you can download Xcode for free and start using it. You don’t need to purchase any Apple Developer Program to run and test your apps in the simulator. But this is not really an option, as it is not possible to build and sign your app to run it on a real device.

iOS Developer Program ($99/year)

The standard iOS Developer Program for $99/year comes with two options to distribute your apps.

  • Ad-hoc distribution (non-public deployment)
    • Install on up to 100 devices per year
    • No physical access needed. The device only needs to be registered with its UDID at Apples iOS Provisioning Portal
    • Build apps that run on the registered devices
    • Get the app on your devices by
      • Directly running and debugging on those devices from within Xcode
      • Drag’n’drop the app .ipa into iTunes and sync with your device
      • Over-the-Air Distribution
        • By creating your own download page with an installation link which looks like this:
Download MyCompanyApp
  • By using a service like Testflight

  • Public Distribution via the Apple App Store

    • All apps are reviewed by Apple prior to inclusion and might be rejected
    • Your apps will be available to the world for download or purchase

iOS Developer Enterprise Program ($299/year)

The iOS Developer Enterprise Program for $299/year enables you and your company to build and distribute your app over-the-air to an unlimited number of devices for In-House usage in addition to the abilities of the standard Apple Developer Program. But because the app file can be installed on any iOS device, you need to make sure you protect the distribution of the app file - there is no DRM unlike apps from the App Store. Members of your company can use iTunes, iPhone Configuration Utility, Xcode or an installation link to install the app on their devices. There is more information at Apple on that topic.


Not really, right? ;)

These are the options I’m aware of. If you have something to add, feel free to leave a comment.