Some developers are using TestFlight as an underground App Store

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in General Discussion
Some people in the app development community are using Apple beta testing platform TestFlight as a more exclusive and less restrictive alternative to the App Store.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


TestFlight, which was acquired by Apple in 2014, is a developer tool for prototyping apps with a small group of beta testers before launching the titles on the App Store. But, increasingly, some developers are skipping that last step entirely.

According to Protocol, many developers are publishing apps to TestFlight as a way to build private apps and test capabilities "outside of Apple's stringent guidelines for the App Store." Some apps on TestFlight include tiny programs with only the most basic functionalities that don't qualify for the App Store, as well as apps that are intentionally kept on the platform to add an air of exclusivity and buzz.
"People are clamoring for access to the cooler apps still in private beta, while indie developers are using TestFlight to find an audience they'd never find in the bowels of the App Store. And there's no cooler way to show your status than to post a screenshot of your own TestFlight, chock-full of the hottest apps nobody even knows about yet."
Part of TestFlight's appeal are the loose guidelines and nonexistent App Store commissions. The only main restriction is that apps can be used by a maximum of 10,000 people at once. Beyond that, anyone can download private TestFlight apps -- if they know where to look.

"The people who know what TestFlight is have the app downloaded and are willing to jump through hoops and deal with bugs tend to be a specific kind of early-adopter," according to Protocol.

Developers are starting to capitalize on the underground app ecosystem, too. Thomas Weigt, an iOS developer at BitSuites, built a website called Departures that lists open TestFlights from both major companies and indie developers.

Apple doesn't view TestFlight as an alternate App Store, however. It only reviews apps to ensure they aren't broken or malicious. After a TestFlight is approved, developers told Protocol that the company rarely looks at subsequent versions. Despite the fact that Apple doesn't see the platform as a "long-term home" for apps, that's increasingly what the app development community is using it for. Many developers are pushing apps to TestFlight as a form of "creative expression."

"They don't want to put it on the App Store," Weigt told Protocol. "They might just want to share it with their friends. It's a creative outlet just like painting or anything else."

It's also a way for developers to build buzz around upcoming apps. Clubhouse, a developer social network, is still TestFlight-only despite being "the hottest app in Silicon Valley."

With the extra attention on TestFlight lists and exclusive apps, some developers are concerned that Apple will crack down on how the platform is used. Until then, however, the trend will likely continue -- particularly as Apple is facing antitrust scrutiny and other criticism for its App Store policies.

"The App Store forces every app to try to become a multinational conglomerate, but TestFlight lets them stay mom-and-pop stores," Protocol's David Pierce writes.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,981member
    Wasn't testflight originally built on the original business distribution certificates of the AppStore?
    So is it really outside the AppStore or a part of the AppStore Apple considered vital to have anyway?

    Either way only build only last 90days.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 7
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,919member
    TestFlight needs a chargeable approval system. No point in developing something which can never be published.
  • Reply 3 of 7
    payecopayeco Posts: 544member
    mattinoz said:
    Wasn't testflight originally built on the original business distribution certificates of the AppStore?
    So is it really outside the AppStore or a part of the AppStore Apple considered vital to have anyway?

    Either way only build only last 90days.
    The dev only needs to publish a minimal update every 90 days to get around this. One slightly annoying thing is TestFlight doesn’t update automatically so you’ve got to manually update each app one by one.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 7
    payecopayeco Posts: 544member
    mcdave said:
    TestFlight needs a chargeable approval system. No point in developing something which can never be published.
    You have to be invited to a TestFlight beta and that invite can be revoked. A dev could easily take payment via PayPal for one time payments or set up a Patreon for recurring “subscriptions” and revoke your TestFlight invite if you stop paying. 
    watto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 5 of 7

    "The App Store forces every app to try to become a multinational conglomerate, but TestFlight lets them stay mom-and-pop stores," Protocol'sDavid Pierce writes.

    The App Store does not force someone to be a, "multinational conglomerate." if you are on the internet, your are multinational, the App Store is just one of the many stores on the internet. It is like being afraid of success, so you hide under a rock, when success is never guaranteed.
    jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 7
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member

    "People are clamoring for access to the cooler apps still in private beta, while indie developers are using TestFlight to find an audience they'd never find in the bowels of the App Store. And there's no cooler way to show your status than to post a screenshot of your own TestFlight, chock-full of the hottest apps nobody even knows about yet."

    Or in short, private beta testing. What it is designed to do. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 7
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Meh. I don’t think there’s a story here.
    watto_cobra
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