Apple TestFlight: (let) test apps before release

New apps for Apple devices don't just have to be released out of the blue. Before the release, you can have it tested by thousands of people via TestFlight and get their feedback. In this way, a lot of user experience can be integrated before the launch. The finished app thus meets the needs of potential users more and there are no urgent updates and patches required right from the start. And as a user, you also benefit from Apple TestFlight – after all, you can try out the latest apps, tools, and games in advance. You can find out how it all works here.

Apple TestFlight can be used to test beta versions of apps for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS and visionOS. Here you can find out how this works for developers and users and what else you need to know.
Apple TestFlight can be used to test beta versions of apps for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS and visionOS. Here you can find out how this works for developers and users and what else you need to know.

What is Apple TestFlight?

Apple TestFlight provides the opportunity for developers and users to test pre-release apps as Beta version to test. An app draft (a so-called "build") written with Xcode and already complete with the basic functions can be submitted by the developer side; then people can be invited to test this beta. 

An e-mail invitation or an invitation via a public link is required from the user side in order to participate in the beta test. All this is realized via the TestFlight app, which thus serves as a kind of app store for beta versions. Tests of individual app betas can be carried out by up to 100 team members and up to 10.000 external testers (as of August 2023).

A brief look at the history of TestFlight

The first version of TestFlight was created in 2010, at that time still developed as an offer for app tests under iOS and Android. Then, in 2012, TestFlight was acquired by Burstly, a mobile app, mobile marketing, and mobile advertising company. Two years later, in 2014, this company was then bought by Apple. 

As a result of the purchase, the functionality of TestFlight was limited to iOS for the time being and the testing of Android apps was thrown out of the program. Later TestFlight Apps and thus beta test environments for macOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS and visionOS were added. In this way, programs for all major Apple platforms can be sent to the beta test.

Apple TestFlight can be used on these platforms

Of course, if you want to (have) test beta versions of future apps, you have to know on which systems this is actually possible. The platforms not only include the latest operating systems, but also a few that have been around for a few years. You can currently use the TestFlight app – e.g from the official App Store – use in these systems (as of August 2023):

  • iPhone or iPod touch with iOS 14 or later
  • iPad with iPadOS 14 or newer
  • Mac with macOS 12 Monterey or newer
  • Apple TV with tvOS 13 or later
  • Apple Watch with watchOS 6 or later
  • apple vision pro with visionOS 1 or newer
The Apple TestFlight app is available for different devices and systems. Among other things, you can use them on the Mac with macOS to test betas.
The Apple TestFlight app is available for different devices and systems. Among other things, you can use them on the Mac with macOS to test betas.

How developers can use TestFlight

If you think up an app, design it and program it, you won't get everything right the first time you try it. And even though the program seems to be finished, there are still a few hurdles to using it effectively and even a bug here and there. That's why the beta test is worthwhile, in which every new build can be tried out by testers for 90 days and provided with feedback. This can then be used to improve the app. 

The roughly outlined process could look like this:

  1. Obtain a developer license from Apple and register on the platform
  2. Implement the app idea and program the program with Xcode for the desired platform
  3. Create a beta build to submit as a preview of the finished app for testing
  4. Set up TestFlight and make the created build available for testers
  5. Invite up to 100 internal and 10.000 external beta testers 
  6. Collect feedback, accept problem reports and stack bug reports
  7. Revamp the app and issue a new build for testing
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until a certain level of user satisfaction and app stability is achieved
  9. Create version 1.0 of the app
  10. Submit this finished version to Apple and offer it in the App Store

How users can use TestFlight

Those who do not develop apps but would like to test them will also benefit from TestFlight. After all, you can actively participate in the design of interesting programs, system tools, games and the like. In addition, you get an insight into the possible uses even before the official release of the offer in the App Store. So you know before the release whether you want to get the finished app or not. 

Roughly speaking, TestFlight usage can be broken down as follows:

  1. Install the TestFlight App on the desired device and system
  2. Receive an invitation via email or invitation link
  3. Enter the invitation code from the invitation in the TestFlight app
  4. Install the latest build of the app to be tested
  5. Start the app and try out whether and how it works
  6. Give feedback in the form of automatic reports (errors, crashes, irregularities) or your own comments
  7. Update the beta to the next build and test if the feedback is taken
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until satisfied with the app beta
  9. After the trial period, uninstall the app beta
  10. If you are interested, download the finished app from the App Store
In the TestFlight app, you can't just browse through current beta versions and find something interesting. The use is designed for individual app betas, for which you also have to be invited to test.
In the TestFlight app, you can't just browse through current beta versions and find something interesting. The use is designed for individual app betas, for which you also have to be invited to test.

TestFlight Feedback: This data is shared with developers

In order to be able to determine certain errors and their causes and the solution to the underlying problem, appropriate data is required. After all, you need to be able to determine if a beta build isn't working properly on a specific device, on a specific chip, or due to some other factor for some testers. 

The performance adjustment and other adjustment screws are also based on small individual factors. Even free hard drive space, battery charge and connected devices can have an impact. That's why it's important to know that you share multiple data and information about the system with the developers through automatic reports and individual feedback.

According to current information from Apple, the following information is transmitted:

  • App name
  • app version
  • Installed build
  • device and device model
  • Operating system version
  • System language of the device
  • Usage or operating time of the tested app
  • Free storage space that was available on the device at the time of the feedback
  • The battery status (battery charge) at the time of the feedback
  • The screen resolution of the device
  • Mobile network provider (for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, etc.)
  • Set time zone
  • CPU type of the device (Intel processor or Apple Silicon such as M or A chip)
  • Connection type (WLAN, mobile network, network type, etc.)
  • Connected Apple Watch (if you have one)
  • Screenshots associated with the feedback (if attached)
  • Feedback comments (if option is used)
  • Crash logs that indicate, among other things, how long the app beta ran before it crashed

Useful links for your test flight

If you are interested in the broad test of your not yet finished app or if you have received an invitation for the beta test, then you are already well prepared for the next steps. However, the information provided here is by no means all there is to know about TestFlight. More information for developers and users as well as the download of the TestFlight app can be found on the corresponding Apple pages:

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