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What the New TestFlight Could Mean for Beta Testing


September 6, 2014

After Acquiring it earlier this year, Apple has finally rolled out its new beta testing app, TestFlight. Free on the App Store, TestFlight will massively simplify the process of beta testing on iOS.

Before TestFlight, beta testing iOS apps has been a mess for developers and testers alike. Devs are allowed to seed their betas to a maximum of 100 devices. That's right, not 100 people, 100 devices. This means that if you have a universal app and your testers are installing it on both an iPhone and an iPad, each tester is now taking two of your already very limited testing spots.

On a beta tester's end the process is complex as well. First you must make an account with the developer's chosen beta testing service, then you have to register each of your devices with the service (which requires you to install a "provisioning profile" on each device). With profiles installed you communicate to the developer seeding you a beta what your registered email address is and which devices you will be using for testing, then the dev has to manually add your devices so you get the next seed. Any mistake with any of these steps and you don't get access to the beta for at least until the next update is seeded.

The situation is greatly exacerbated each year when fall rolls around and many testers purchase new iPhones and iPads. Devices are registered through their UUIDs, and since new devices have new UUIDs, they need to be re-registered and developers have to re-add them and remove the old devices. I've never seeded an app myself so I'm unsure exactly how this works, but I've been told by various devs that it's no where near as easy as deleting the old device and adding the new one; there are many more steps involved.

TestFlight Should Solve All of These Problems

Obviously TestFlight is brand new and completely untested, so it could end up creating just as many new problems as old ones it solves. That said, the promise of TestFlight is to simplify the beta testing process. With TestFlight, provisioning profiles will no longer be necessary. Instead, everything will go right through the official TestFlight app and can be installed to a tester's devices without needing to go through a third party service. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, betas are tied to each tester's Apple ID instead of their device's UUIDs. Thus, testers can install a beta their Apple ID has been granted access to on up to ten devices at their own discretion. The developer no longer needs to manually add each individual device, nor does each device count against the dev's maximum seed limit. Speaking of which, that limit has been increased from 100 devices to 1,000 Apple IDs.

As I noted earlier, this is a new system and there could still be a lot of issues (for starters, I have no idea how hard it is for devs to get their apps onto the new TestFlight in the first place), but the potential implications are massive and great news for developers and beta testers alike. I can't wait to get my hands on a TestFlight beta and really see how much better the experience is.