TestFlight, an iOS app beta testing service for mobile developers, recently launched out of its closed beta period and is now publicly available to all. Currently in an open beta, TestFlight offers a better way for developers to distribute iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) apps to testers via an over-the-air method. It's a vast improvement over the traditional testing process where, in the past, an end user would receive a zip file containing the app, unzip it, drag it into iTunes and then sync their mobile device with their computer.
Now, an app beta tester can simply tap a link sent to them on their phone and the app downloads directly to the device itself.
When we first covered TestFlight back in October, this sort of over-the-air (OTA) beta testing was rarely used, at least in our experience. Numerous developers and PR firms would send us apps to try, but always, it was in the form of a zip file that arrived via email.
But with the introduction of iOS 4.0, Apple had actually introduced a way for developers to distribute apps via the "ad hoc" method for testing purposes - that is, over-the-air, one-click installs. And there are number of other solutions out there too, which provide additional levels of functionality.
In TestFlight's case, the service does more than simply providing OTA downloads - it works as a complete app beta testing solution.
TestFlight adheres to Apple's guidelines and rules for ad hoc provisioning and device number limitations, so developers don't have to worry about breaking any of Apple's rules. And it doesn't, obviously, require jailbroken devices on the end users' part in order to work. ?
Why Will Developers Love TestFlight?
?Explains TestFlight co-founder Ben Satterfield, there are a number of reasons why the TestFlight solution goes beyond Apple's generic offerings.
For starters, ?TestFlight provides a registration link for developers to send out however they see fit: via email, a forum posting, a Twitter or Facebook update, etc. All the end user has to do is click the link and sign up.
Testers no longer have to download a UDID sender application from the App Store or open up iTunes to retrieve their UDID (a unique device identifier required for testing), either. Instead, beta testers can simply tap the "register" button displayed in mobile Safari. This will automatically add the device information to the tester's account within TestFlight. On the backend, developers can then add that number to their builds.
In addition, the service lets developers send out multiple builds of the app to different groups - for example, internal vs. external testers. A distribution list feature helps to manage which groups get which build. And an IPA validation feature makes sure that unusable builds aren't sent out.
Also of interest to developers is TestFlight's upload API (application programming interface) which integrates TestFlight into automated systems and existing workflows.
Mobile developers looking for an easier way to beta test their iOS applications will be glad to discover this service is now widely available. If you're one, you can sign up now at TestFlightApp.com to begin using it today.
And as an app beta tester myself, I'll plead that you do: please, no more zip files!