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Deploying an iOS app in-house

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How to get the .ipa file you created on an iPad or iPhone outside of the App Store

1. Sync your iPad or iPhone with iTunes

  1. Double-click the .ipa file you just generated and it will be added to the Apps section in iTunes.
  2. Sync with your device and the app will be installed.

WARNING:

Starting from iTunes 12.7.0, Apple has dropped the Apps section in iTunes. That means you can't sync your iPad or iPhone with iTunes anymore. So you will need Xcode. That's not a bad thing, since you usually get a more detailed error message in Xcode than in iTunes, if something is wrong with the build or with your provisioning profile.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

If you are installing an Ad Hoc build, make sure the iOS device's UDID has been added to the provisioning profile you used to build the app. For more information about this, please refer to our article about provisioning.

2. Install from Xcode

Xcode Devices

Sometimes, mainly for troubleshooting purposes, you may want to install the .ipa file via Xcode.

  1. Connect your iOS device via USB, then open Xcode
  2. From the Window menu, select "Devices and Simulators"
  3. Select your device from the list of devices, then use the "+" sign to install the .ipa.

If something is wrong with the build or with your provisioning profile, you will usually get a more detailed error message in Xcode than in iTunes.

3. Deploy the app over the air (Twixl built-in)

This method allows you to distribute the app more easily without the need for iTunes syncing. The .ipa file will be installed on a secure web server, and users will be able to install the app directly on the device.

3.1. Deployment URL

1. Deployment URL

Before you create a build of your app, enter the deployment URL in the "Code Signing" section of the build settings. The deployment URL is the location on your web server where you will be putting the app.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Apple requires the deployment URL to be a secure (https) URL, so you may need to get an SSL security certificate for your web server.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

As of iOS 9, Apple requires the certificate for an Enterprise app to be explicitly accepted first, before you can install apps from that company. First install the Enterprise app, then navigate to Settings -> General -> Profiles -> Enterprise app. There you will be able to trust the certificate for the company you just installed the app from.

3.2. Create a build

Create a build

In the Application options, select "Generate Over-the-air install files" and create the build.

Three files will be generated when you create a build:

  • [appname].ipa (the application file)
  • [appname].plist (a plist file)
  • [appname].html (the page to navigate to)

If you copy the three files to the folder that was specified as the deployment URL, users will be able to navigate to https://[yourserver].com/[appfolder]/[appname].html from their iOS device to automatically install the application.

4. Deploy the app over the air (using an MDM)

This method allows you to distribute the app easily without the need for iTunes syncing. The .ipa file will be installed via a mobile device management system, such as Airwatch, Mobile Iron, JAMF, etc.

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