Possibilities to distribute enterprise apps

Background Information

Companies are increasingly choosing to support specific work processes with a mobile app. In addition to many other conceptual questions, the question quickly arises as to how this app should be distributed to the users. Often, the use case looks like that, not only employees but also external people should get the app – this may include, for example, service providers, partners or customers. This app is in most cases explicitly not intended for a wide range of customers but is aimed at selected professional users. The following sections in this Insight are intended to help you decide on the best distribution method.

Distribution via public app stores

Apple and Google each provide an infrastructure for the distribution of apps.

Apple provides apps to end users through the Apple App Store. The App Store app is preinstalled on every iOS device *. Apps are managed and published through the Developer Portal and the iTunesConnect portal.

Google provides end-user apps through the Play Store. On every Android device, the App Play Store is preinstalled *. The administration and publishing of apps are done through the Developer Portal.

Apple and Google define the framework for publishing apps through their systems.

* If a device is managed via an MDM system, the store app can also be blocked for the user and may, therefore, be blocked and probably not available to the end user.

Distribution via Apple App Store – Advantages

  • Apps are available to end users through Apple’s standard mechanism
  • Apps do not have to be re-signed and deployed after one year with an updated Provisioning Profile
  • Apps can – if necessary – be selectively enabled or disabled for individual countries
  • Apps can be offered for a fee in defined structures – if desired – (Apple requires a commission fee of 15%)
  • Apple provides the infrastructure for distribution and billing

Distribution via Apple App Store – Disadvantages

  • Users need an Apple ID on their devices to install apps from the Apple App Store
  • For enterprise customers with managed devices, the Apple App Store may be probably blocked by MDM
  • It must comply with all Apple requirements, such as support for new device classes such as iPhone X
  • Apple reserves the right to publish in a review before the app or remove subsequently
  • The review may lead to delays of up to 10 days (currently the average review time is around 3 working days)
  • Apps can only be made available to a limited extent to selected user groups

Distribution via Google Play Store – Advantages

  • Apps are available to end users through Google’s standard mechanism
  • Apps can – if necessary – be selectively enabled or disabled for individual countries
  • Apps can – if desired – be offered for a fee in defined structures (Google requires a commission fee of 15% for this)
  • Google provides the infrastructure for distribution and billing

Distribution via Google Play Store – Disadvantages

  • Users need a Google Account to install apps from the Play Store
  • For enterprise customers with managed devices, the Play Store may be probably blocked by MDM
  • It must comply with all Google requirements – such as the Cordova version
  • Google reserves the right to remove the app from the store after automated app scans
  • Technical scans can delay app publishing by a few hours
  • Apps can only be made available to a limited extent to selected user groups

Distribution via beta programs of public app stores

Apple and Google also provide a beta testing program in addition to the distribution of public apps.

At Apple, apps for end-user beta testing are provided through the TestFlight app. On iOS devices, this app can be installed from the Apple Store app. To manage and publish apps, use the Developer Portal and the iTunesConnect portal in the TestFlight section.

Google provides apps for alpha or beta testing through the Play Store. The Play Store is pre-installed on every Android device. App management and publishing are done through the Developer Portal for Alpha and Beta Testing.

Apple and Google define the framework for publishing apps through their systems.

Distribution via Apple Testflight – Advantages

  • Apps are available to users through an Apple-provided mechanism
  • Apps can be selectively enabled for individual users
  • Apple provides the infrastructure for distribution and billing

Distribution via Apple Testflight – Disadvantages

  • Users need an Apple ID to install apps from the Apple App Store
  • The installation of the app requires a one-time installation of the TestFlight app
  • Apple reserves the right not to publish the app in a “reduced” review
  • The review may lead to delays of up to 10 days (currently the average review time is about two working days)
  • The signature of apps expires after 90 days

The TestFlight service is primarily intended for a short trial period prior to the release of an iOS app. For a permanent operation, the solution is not suitable because of the short validity of the signature.

Distribution via Google Alpha and Beta Testing – Advantages

  • Apps are available to users through a mechanism provided by Google
  • Apps can be selectively enabled for individual users
  • Google provides the infrastructure for distribution and billing

Distribution via Google Alpha and Beta Testing – Disadvantages

  • Users need a Google ID to install apps from the Play Store
  • For enterprise customers with managed devices, the Play Store may be probably blocked by MDM

Distribution via internal Enterprise App Store

Apple and Google offer not only the distribution of apps through the respective public stores but also mechanisms for the internal distribution of apps primarily for companies.

Apple requires the Apple Enterprise Program and an Enterprise App Store such as Relution. The apps are made available to end users through a separate App Store app or mobile web page. Apps are managed through the Developer Portal. The distribution of apps through the respective provider of the Enterprise App Store.

At Google, apps can be made available via a web service for download and installation. For special devices such as Samsung optimized installation and distribution mechanisms can be used.

Apple and Google are defining ways to distribute apps in parallel with their systems.

Distribution of iOS Apps via Enterprise App Store – Advantages

  • Apps can be distributed to selected user groups, for example, as a deep link or after logging in with a previously configured username and password
  • Users do not need an Apple ID to install apps from an in-house Enterprise App Store
  • Not all Apple requirements must be met
  • The release of app updates is not delayed by a review by Apple
  • Some enterprise app stores (such as Relution) can also be used without device management (MDM)
  • An existing user management system (ActiveDirectory / LDAP) can be connected so that users do not need new access data

Distribution of iOS Apps via Enterprise App Store – Disadvantages

  • Apps are available to end users through a special mechanism approved by Apple but requiring initial configuration by the user (see * https://support.apple.com/en-US/HT204460)
  • Apps need to be re-signed & deployed after one year with an updated Provisioning Profile. This is not a disadvantage in this case, because Relution can automate these tasks.
  • The infrastructure for distribution can be provided, for example, as a cloud service or on-premises
  • According to Apple guidelines, the distribution of apps may only be made to employees, prospects and partners, but above all, to a known group of users

Distribution of Android Apps via Enterprise App Store – Advantages

  • Apps can be distributed to selected user groups, for example, as a deep link or after logging in with a previously configured username and password
  • Users do not need Google ID to install apps from an internal enterprise app store
  • Not all Google requirements must be met
  • The publication of app updates is not delayed by technical scans by Google
  • Some enterprise app stores (such as Relution) can also be used without device management (MDM)
  • An existing user management system (ActiveDirectory / LDAP) can be connected so that users do not need new access data

Distribution of Android Apps via Enterprise App Store – Disadvantages

  • Apps are available to end users through a special mechanism approved by Google but requiring an initial configuration by the user
  • The infrastructure for distribution must be provided, for example, as a cloud service

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