App Deployment Over the Air
In recent years, we have finally seen mobile devices disconnect from their bulky computer counterparts.
You no longer need a standalone computer to own an iPhone for instance. In the early days of the iOS devices, you needed to connect your device to your computer. You did this to sync all of your favorite music, photos, back up your device, etc. That all changed when “Cloud” services arrived. Now, there’s not much reason to connect your iPad to your desktop. All of your files are now backed up in the cloud, ready for you to download whenever and where ever you want. This disconnection from PCs has made its way into the app development world as well.
This is where Test Flight comes in. They offer a free service that allows app developers and testers to easily share app builds over the air. Instead of having to sync your device to a computer, new builds can be easily pushed directly to the tester’s device. In the next section, we will go over the process in more detail.
Let’s assume that you are the developer. To begin using this resource, visit https://developer.apple.com/testflight/.
After you verify your account and are logged in, your account home page is the dashboard.
We can now begin uploading our app builds. Keep in mind that this works with Android and iOS apps. The support for Android is a new feature this year. You have the choice to start inviting people to join your team or upload your app. It doesn’t really matter but let’s start by uploading something. Click on “Upload a Build” and you will be presented with the screen below. The process is incredibly easy because you can just drag and drop your .ipa/.apk file right onto the page. All that’s left is to write a little description of the build and hit “Upload”.
Now that the app is uploaded, it’s time to invite people to join our team. From any page, you can click on the blue “+” sign in the top right corner. One of the dropdown menu items will be “Invite Teammate”.
Enter in the teammate’s email address and a message for them. If they will be a developer on the team, select the “Team Developer” option. Keep in mind that the people you invite do not have to have an account before you invite them. They can sign up with the invitation.
This invitation will allow the invitee to join your team however, keep in mind that they need to use a device that is registered with your account. The registration is done with a provisioning profile. This gives the developer more peace of mind knowing that their teammates aren’t downloading app builds to unauthorized devices, such as their friend’s phone. For more on creating a profile, visit http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Provisioning-Profile-for-iPhone.
Now, let’s assume that we are now the teammate. In our email, we will receive the invitation that was just sent. This is what that email looks like. Click on “Accept” to join the team.
If the user doesn’t have an account already, now is the time to create one. We can now log onto the app. We’re using an iOS device here. Let’s open the Test Flight app on the device and log in. Once you log in for the first time, you should see this screen.
Once you connect the device, you should now see the apps that you can download from the team. As an example, a “Hello World” app has been uploaded to ours. Click the “Install” link.
The app will download to your device just as an app from the App Store would. Open the app to begin your testing!
As you can see, the real benefit of this program is that it allows for quick distribution of an app build. If one of the apps is changed by the developers, they can simply upload it and it’s at the fingertips of everyone at any location with internet access. This is a very useful tool and I would highly recommend app developers on iOS and Android give it a try.
By Matt Plotner, Test Engineer – Olenick & Associates, Chicago