Wireless Ad Hoc Distribution

[EDIT: Obsolete.]

So a while back there was this article drawing our attention to the fact that the description here

Installing Applications and Distribution Provisioning Profiles Wirelessly

iOS 4 supports over-the-air installation of enterprise applications, allowing you to distribute in-house software to your iPhone and iPod touch users without having to use iTunes or iPhone Configuration Utility…

is not, in fact, limited to enterprise applications; any ad hoc application can be distributed this way. Long as they’ve upgraded to iOS 4, and so iPads are right out, mind you; but still, this would appear to have significant possibilities for simplifying our ad hoc install support, so let’s give it a try and see how it works, shall we?

Conveniently (this is the great thing about being behind the curve, isn’t it?) there’s been a couple runs at simplifying things even further:

Introducing iOS Beta Builder — wait for it — introduces iOS Beta Builder, just released on github:

… Enter ‘iOS BetaBuilder’ – a simple MacOS X app takes your archived IPA file and creates the required manifest and HTML files for wireless distribution. It even zips up a copy of the app for folks on 3.x that need to install via iTunes…

So, let’s try that out. ‘Build and Archive’ today’s beta release, check. ‘Save To Disk’, check. Drag onto BetaBuilder.app, check. Type in a URL … hmmm … check. ‘Generate Deployment Files’, and … yep, there’s some files there. Notably, “index.html”:


Alrighty, pop that folder up to the website, and let’s try this out. Deleting the appropriate ad hoc profile from the device just to make sure the magic all really happens. Off to the URL we entered, tap to install, installing … yep, it works. Woah. That was, like, too easy.

So hey, mad propz to Messr. Hunter Hillegas for a fine job well done there, indeed!

Now, if you want to be more hardcore about your wireless ad hoc support, look into “Hockey”:

Announcing Hockey, an iOS developer framework

The beta application can be installed by clicking on a link on a webpage and the application will notify the user automatically when it starts, if there is an update available and the user can install it from within the application. Wherever they are and whenever they want. No iTunes required, in fact, not even a computer is required any more! All that is required, is a webserver and some simple code to be integrated.

To fill in more details from the github page:

Hockey is a iOS Ad-Hoc updater framework. It can be used for all apps that target the Apple AppStore and improves the beta testing process dramatically. All beta testers. It consists of two components, a server and a client framework.

The server component is required for all scenarios. But it also can work standalone without the client library. It provides a web interface which beta testers can use to install the latest AdHoc provisioning profile and also the latest beta version via Safari right from the device. One server installation is able to handle multiple applications via different bundle identifiers (I highly suggest using different bundle identifiers for Debug, AdHoc Beta and AppStore release builds !!!).

The client framework should only be included in AdHoc builds and should NOT (!!) be used in AppStore distribution builds! By default the client library will check for updates on your server whenever the app is started or will wake up. The user can adjust this in the settings dialog to alternatively only check once a day or manually.

So there’s definitely more capability there, having the application notify the testers to update does streamline the process even more, yes … but this strikes us as just a little more effort than we really need to go to at this exact moment, so we’ll stick with the dead simple iOS Beta Builder flow for now. At least until we get some real world experience with how reliable this method actually is … and most likely until iPads get 4.x so they can use it too. But hey, if you go straight to setting up this Hockey thingy, let us know how it works for you!

h/t: iOS Development Goodies

Alex | August 27, 2010
  • Ray Wenderlich August 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm
    That is pretty cool!
  • Shawn Grimes August 30, 2010 at 7:27 am
    Very cool. Thanks for sharing!
  • Andreas Linde August 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm
    Hi, just found your article. I am the main developer of Hockey. The framework is actively being used in my own app WorldView and also by the developer of the Icebird twitter application. Beta testers love it so far, since it is so easy for them to update and install. Having them to go to a website with a link from an email is really not needed. Why should they have more effort, if it can be less? Think of beta testers not being computer experts. They are the best and biggest help any dev can get, so make life as easy as possible for them :)
  • Ray Wenderlich September 24, 2010 at 8:18 am
    Just wanted to let you know that I've been using Beta Builder lately and have been quite happy with it - it's so simple and easy. Thanks again for pointing this out!
  • Arthur November 19, 2010 at 5:36 am
    There is also a webapp to deploy your iOS dev apps wirelessly without iTunes, it’s call diawi ( http://www.diawi.com ). You just need to upload your ipa ( mobileprovision) to get an install url that will work directly on yout iPhone. Ne personal server is needed.

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