How do you distribute beta iOS apps to your team?

A few people have asked me recently how I distribute beta iOS apps to my team. The short answer: Crashlytics Beta. It’s free, simple, and easy for my team to use.

Yes, I’m aware that Apple now owns TestFlight and that it’s also free to use. But did you know that it only supports iOS 8 and above? So you’re not going to be able to have anyone testing your app on iOS 7 through TestFlight. And even if you’re targeting iOS 8, TestFlight may not be a good option.

Recently, a friend added me to his TestFlight team to test an app. But I never got the invitation. He deleted me and added me again, but I still didn’t get the invitation. He even tried sending it to another of my email addresses, and still, it didn’t work. We never did figure out why I didn’t get those emails, but eventually we just gave up.

And in case you think this is an isolated issue, check out the App Store reviews of the TestFlight app. This quote summarizes what I’ve heard from others:

So, I got it working, but there are multiple confusing steps. No way I’m trying to walk multiple customers through this.

I’ve heard similar concerns from other developers who are trying to distribute their apps through TestFlight. It doesn’t “just work,” things break without error messages, and therefore, it’s a waste of time. So for now, I’ve settled on Crashlytics.

The one thing I don’t like about Crashlytics is the Mac app which, as far as I know, is required for Beta distribution. It only runs in the menu bar and, so I can’t Alt-Tab to it, and the window where I enter release notes and choose users is tiny…

When I get to the point where I’m annoyed enough with Crashlytics to warrant switching to a new solution, I’ll take a good look at HockeyApp. It comes highly recommended by some of my friends, and I like the fact that I’d be the customer, not the product.

If you’re looking for a way to distribute prerelease builds of your iOS app to your team, I’d suggest staying away from TestFlight until Apple fixes some of the bugs and workflow issues. For now, I’d recommend evaluating both Crashlytics and HockeyApp.

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