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Apple makes it easier to share ‘unlisted’ apps with employees, partners, and others

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Apple’s most recent App Store improvement — adding support for unlisted apps — should help business users, educators, researchers, and others who need a consistent and limited way to share iOS or iPadOS apps with small groups of people.

Unlisted apps via the App Store

The company’s decision involving unlisted apps is a welcome addition because it means you can exploit Apple’s internationally available App Store infrastructure to distribute apps to small and restricted audiences using direct links.

“Unlisted apps don’t appear in any App Store categories, recommendations, charts, search results, or other listings,” Apple explains. Instead, the company sees unlisted distribution as of potential use to specific organizations, special events, research studies, or apps used as employee resources or sales tools.

What this means is that a business that has built its own proprietary ordering-and-stock-control app, for instance,  should find it easier to furnish teams – particularly remote teams – with that or other apps they need. (Educators, researchers, and event organizers also benefit from unlisted app distribution.)

This isn’t entirely new. Until now, developers have been able to share beta apps and test software internally using TestFlight and the Developer Enterprise Program; it allows large organizations to develop and deploy proprietary, internal-use apps to their employees.

The problem is that some developers abused this facility, which avoids Apple’s app review process and, in some cases, led to the evolution of grey markets engaged in the distribution of pirated games, porn, or gambling apps on iOS. The latter is almost certainly the kind of Wild West chaotic reality that would be encouraged were Apple to be forced to permit sideloading of apps without restriction on its devices.

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