The design, build and testing process for an iOS application should be extensive and iterative. Combining excellent human-interface design with well-functioning code are the visible hallmarks of the best iOS store applications.
A large part of the behind-the-scenes magic for top iOS applications is the manner in which they are tested long before being submitted to iTunes for final approval.
Ad hoc distribution makes private testing readily available to stakeholders on their personal iOS devices.
The typical development cycle for an iOS application will include rounds of testing, bug fixes and more testing. Once most major bugs are cleared, user acceptance testing takes place. This step gets difficult for brands that have distributed stakeholders or a combination of internal and external stakeholders.
Faced with the issue of distributing a test build of an application to disparate stakeholders many developers choose to undergo an early submission to the iTunes store to achieve easy distribution to the stakeholders for approval. The hope with this approach is that the submission goes largely unnoticed by the general public and that the stakeholders will have time to review the application after being asked to download it via the public store. The stakeholders provide feedback, normally under a tight deadline, in turn the development and product teams make an iterative update to the application incorporating the feedback. After the update to the application is successful the brand formally announces the launch to the public.
The risk of wide-spread, early public exposure and the tight response times required of stakeholders create a perfect storm that can be avoided by using ad hoc distribution or in-house distribution.
Ad hoc distribution allows for limited distribution, for up to 100 devices, of a fully-functioning iOS application. Stakeholders receive a private, ad hoc application file, install it using iTunes and can test without pressure.
To create the ad hoc application for distribution developers must build an Xcode archive of the application. They should then locate the archive in the archive organizer and select "Distribute." Choose "Save for enterprise or ad hoc deployment" and then save the resulting .ipa file to send to stakeholders for installation. User installation consists of dragging and dropping the .ipa file into the Application folder in iTunes and then connecting their iOS device.
The ad hoc process requires that the stakeholders submit their iOS device's ID or UDID, a unique 40 character string, to developers for addition to the iOS provisioning portal. This process allows 100 devices per calendar year, for each Standard iOS development membership. At the beginning of the calendar year old devices may be deleted to make room for new devices to be added for that year.
Developers enrolled in the iOS Enterprise program are able to distribute applications in-house to an unlimited number of devices using the same process. Files distributed in this fashion should be protected as the file is able to be installed on any iOS device without requiring a pre-registration of the device ID. The enterprise distribution method is also appropriate for applications that are built and designed for permanent internal use by an organization.
Ad hoc application distribution encourages significant stakeholder involvement in the iterative process. This behind-the-scenes iOS magic makes all the difference between simply getting an application out the door and building a truly great application with stakeholder buy-in.