We’ve spoken to Apple regarding the confusion surrounding Apple’s new TestFlight Beta Testing program after the company sent emails to developers about its progress after the Apple special event yesterday.
In the email Apple told developers, “You can now distribute your prerelease builds to up to 25 trusted internal users before you make your app available on the App Store.”
This surprised many as when the TestFlight Beta Testing program was first announced at this year’s WWDC Apple stated that it would allow developers to beta test their iOS 8 apps with up to 1,000 users. After being contacted by quite a few developers confused about the “25” user reference in the email we reached out to Apple and a company spokesperson confirmed that the 1,000-user limit is still on its way.
The confusion the email generated stemmed from those developers who didn’t realize TestFlight will have two beta-sharing channels: internal and external.
The internal channel is limited to 25 beta slots and are for companies who want to distribute builds for testing and internal review quickly and easily. These 25 slots can only be given to members of an organization that have a Technical or Admin role in the developer’s iTunes Connect account. On the flip side of that is the external TestFlight channel. With this channel, developers can beta test their apps with those outside of their organization–be they professional testers or just fans of an app. The example the Apple spokesperson gave me in reference to the external TestFlight channel was a game development studio that might want to test a new version of their RPG with a small slice of its most avid players.
The Apple spokesperson confirmed that the external TestFlight channel will still support 1,000 beta users per app and also stated that Apple knows how excited developers are about the 1,000 external beta slots TestFlight will offer. And though an exact date has not yet been chosen as to when TestFlight’s external channel support will launch, the company spokesperson said it will be “coming soon after the public launch of iOS 8,” which is on September 17th.
For those not familiar with the history of Apple’s TestFlight, it’s a technology that wasn’t actually created by Apple. A company called Burstly invented the TestFlight SDK, which made it relatively simpler for iOS and Android developers to offer betas of their apps to users and other members of their teams for testing. But while TestFlight under Burstly was welcome by most developers–not to mention widely-used–the service still required some cumbersome information gathering (mostly in the form of UDIDs) from potential testers in order for them to load beta apps on their devices.
When Apple bought Burstly in February it shut down the Android portion of the service and radically simplified the information needed from beta testers and the steps needed to install beta software on their devices.
Using Apple’s implementation of TestFlight developers can send betas to users by requiring nothing more from them than their email address. The user will then get a notification they are a beta tester and they’ll then be directed to the App Store where they can download the dedicated TestFlight app. Once installed on their device the dedicated app works as a gateway that allows beta testers to install an app’s beta without needing to provide their device’s UDID or install provisioning profiles.