Testing iOS Apps via TestFlight
You’ll want to begin testing iOS apps via TestFlight before releasing a new or updated digital creation. TestFlight refers to the Apple system and accompanying iOS app that gives testers the ability to evaluate new products. The number and types of users who should have access to your pre-release build will inform how you choose to distribute it in TestFlight.
If they don’t already have one, team members will need to create an Apple ID in order to participate in TestFlight processes. The following is a description of TestFlight’s two distribution options:
Internal testing is intended for employees of your organization. You can invite up to 100 team members to engage in the process. A key advantage of internal testing is that pre-release builds are not reviewed by Apple after you make them available in App Store Connect. As a result, the time between the final push from the development team and the availability of your app to testers is usually under 30 minutes. A downside to this option is that you need to send two invitations to each internal tester. Internal team members must first accept an invitation to App Store Connect. After receiving this invitation, they must then accept a second TestFlight invitation that gives them access to pre-release builds.
External testing is intended for users outside of your organization. This type of testing allows you to make pre-release builds available to thousands of external users. Due to the widespread participation that this option affords, test builds must be reviewed and approved by Apple before they can be shared with external testers. This approval process is as rigorous as Apple’s system for reviewing publicly released Apple products. The requirement, therefore, adds hours or days to the time between the final push from the development team and a pre-release build’s availability to external testers.
External testing is advantageous because it offers greater ease of distribution. External users do not require App Store Connect access. Accordingly, they only need to accept a TestFlight invitation to join the testing process. You can use TestFlight to manage lists of external testers as well as send personal invitations to team members. External testing also gives you the option to grant access to pre-release builds to anyone with a public link. Clients often open up external testing to team members by sending a public link (which is the same for all users) to testers via email or by posting a public link on their website.
You may not know who is testing your product, so Apple provides the option to limit the total number of external testers. This feature is valuable if the exact pool of testers is less critical to your product’s pre-release. For example, you may want 1,000 testers to evaluate the latest version of your app before it is made available to millions of users, but you don’t care which 1,000 users test your product. Establishing a limitation on the number of testers is a great way to address scenarios like this one.
When evaluating iOS apps via TestFlight, know that these pre-release builds are not publicly available in the App Store. Users must first install TestFlight onto a mobile device. They will then need to accept an invitation URL or enter a redemption code to install a pre-release version of your app in TestFlight. This process is very similar to installing publicly available apps from the App Store.