Distributing iOS Apps without an Apple ID

Maybe you have been confronted with this situation yourself: there is a productive app that every employee in your company or department should use. Think, for example, of "Evernote", "Toggl" or "Microsoft Office". Basically, in the past, every user had to download the apps with his iPhone, whether it was a company owned or private device, individually from the Apple App Store using his personal Apple ID. The challenge for companies is to maintain a permanent overview and control of the licenses, especially if employees forget their passwords or change personnel.

The installation of apps by employees using their own Apple ID brings various problems with it:

» Not all employees manage to install the app.
» Some employees will not install and use the application at all due to lack of time.
» Employees may not want to use their personal Apple ID to download the app, even if it is for free.
» They also do not want to create another Apple ID, which would create another personal account. They would also have to buy all other apps again they have worked with before, because they use a new/different Apple ID.

All in all, these things are a big nuisance for many companies and their IT support.

Why Apple IDs are problematic

To install an iOS app on an iPhone, you need an Apple ID, because the app license (even if the app itself is free) is bound to an Apple ID. This also means that if you are using multiple devices with the same Apple ID, you only have to buy an app once. According to Apple, normal Apple IDs are for personal use only. Apple IDs cannot be managed centrally. Either the company creates a separate Apple ID for each employee, or everyone creates their own personal Apple ID.

Note: In the meantime, there are Managed Apple IDs that are part of the Apple Education Deployment Program. However, this does not yet apply to enterprise use.

The creation of Apple IDs takes time. Their administration is more problematic if the employees have admin rights for it - after all, you usually need your Apple ID password to download an application.

Some companies only create a handful of Apple IDs and have multiple employees using the same ID. However, this means that, for example, a FaceTime call would ring on more than one device, or an iMessage would find the wrong recipient. Since iOS 10, it has been possible to use an iPhone to view all other devices that use the same Apple ID and remove them. Apple also limits the number of devices that can be used with the same Apple ID. But there is a solution for all these challenges:

Buy apps in bulk with Apple's Volume Purchase Program (VPP)

Apple's Volume Purchase Program allows companies to purchase app licenses in large quantities for all their employees. With the introduction of VPP in 2011, it was possible for companies to purchase licenses in the form of redeemable codes and distribute them to their employees. However, it was still necessary for the employees to continue to use an Apple ID on the device in order to redeem the code. Thus, it was a normal app license as if the employees would have bought the app themselves, with the consequence that the app license could not be revoked if the employee left the company. The license was then irrevocably lost.

Distribute the app to the device, not to the user!

The latest version of the Volume Purchase Program solves this Apple ID problem. With the VPP you can now purchase App-Licenses in large quantities and then send them directly to the devices. This is completely user independent and does not require an Apple ID on the target media iPhone or iPad. Even better: All app licenses can be managed via a fully functional Mobile Device Management (MDM) and can therefore be withdrawn from IT administration without requiring information from the user of the device. Apple calls this "Managed Distribution".

Technically, you can choose between what they call "user assignment" or "device assignment". You can therefore also consciously decide to send the license to a user. This has the advantage that a license can be active on several devices of the same employee. However, this also means that the app license with all of the Apple ID problems described above is passed on to the user. We therefore strongly recommend that licenses should be sent to devices instead of users.

How would you distribute the iOS apps?

You have to register as a company for the VPP and need a good mobile device management software.

Volume Purchase Program for businesses

Register here for the Apple VPP. You will need to create an Apple ID, but this is only for corporate purchases of apps. Therefore more information is required than when registering for a personal Apple ID. To connect your VPP account to your device management software, you need to generate a token. You can find this under "Settings" -> "Apps and Books".

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

You need a MDM to register all corporate iPhones and iPads and to perform app distribution. Under the menu item "Volume Purchase Program" in Relution you can easily upload the received token from the VPP portal.


This is proof for Apple that Relution is entitled to distribute app licenses purchased via VPP. You can then simply purchase the licenses via the Volume Purchase Program and distribute them to appropriate devices in your device management.

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