iPhones and iPads are great tools by themselves and many businesses are adopting them to get things done. Sometimes a business will want an app for internal use only. How do you publish an app that bypasses the App Store without much hassle?
If you ever go to an Apple store you might notice the staff has iPhones with credit card readers on them. The app they’re using is a custom POS (point-of-sale) designed specifically for Apple stores. They also use a custom app made for checking people into the Genius Bar.
At the time of this writing, I’m currently working on an app for a client who wants to check people into a shuttle bus. None of their customers will ever use this app.
Why Not Just Go Thru the App Store?
The main problem with the app store is that all apps must go through it, and if your there, everyone will be able to download it. If your app is very specific to your business and not meant for customer usage, chances are Apple won’t approve it.
By bypassing the App Store, we can do things that Apple wouldn’t let us do in their guidelines.
What’s the Downside
The biggest downside is that you can only install your apps on 100 iOS devices per year. If you have a small to medium business, this is usually not a problem.
If you need more, you might want to look into Apple’s iOS Developer Enterprise Program, which will let you bypass the app store and much more! (
You need at least 500 employees at your company to qualify for this. As pointed out by Jim in the comments, looks like Apple revised their rules and now you just need a Dun & Bradstreet Number to apply)
You’ll also need to renew provisioning profiles which is essentially a file that lets you install and run an app on a specific device. They expire after a few months but services like TestFlight can help ease this task.
The other downside is your app will not be seen and used by the rest of the world, but since we don’t want anyone but ourselves to use that app, this doesn’t matter.
The technical term for distributing apps without the app store is called “Ad-Hoc”. It’s main purpose is to allow developers to testing apps before they go on the App Store, but for our internal apps, they’ll just always be in “beta” testing.
If you’re interested in this your developer should be able to set it up for you. If there is further interest in how to set this up just let me know in the comments section below and I’ll write another blog post about it.
Creating a custom app internally for your business is possible, but you’ll have to deal with Apple’s ad-hoc development mode. Just as long as you and the people using the software understand the shortcomings, you’ll be able to use your own custom app without going thru the app store.
If you have any other questions, ask them in the comments section below. Thanks again for reading!