TestFlight Out, HockeyApp In

As I mentioned in my previous postTestFlight has been acquired by Apple and will be discontinued on February 26, 2015, which is, eh, soon. Instead, they offer the “All-New TestFlight Beta Testing service available inside of iTunes Connect“.

So this post was going to be about moving to this new All-New iTunes Connect TestFlight Beta Testing service provided by Apple.

However, while investigating this new service I quickly stumbled upon so many issues with their service that renders it quite useless. Let me name a few:

  1. Apps made available to External Testers (testers that are not a member of your team in iTunes Connect) require a Beta App Review and must comply with the full App Store Review Guidelines before testing can begin. A review is required for new versions of your app that contain significant changes.
  2. A submitted build will be available for only 30 days after invitations to the testers have been sent.
  3. Enterprise (in-house) distribution builds are not supported, only App Store builds.
  4. Only support for iOS 8 and up. Really?
  5. There is no upload API which is kind of a deal breaker in a CI scenario. There is a workaround for this using deliver from fastlane which looks like a great toolset for automating iOS builds. I just happened to hear about fastlane last week in a recent episode of the Gone Mobile podcast. Sounds really interesting and I might give that a try some day.

Wow, that’s a lot of drawbacks! This led me to look for a different app distribution platform. A quick search gives you a number of options, such as http://app.io,  http://installrapp.comhttp://testfairy.com and http://hockeyapp.net.

And the winner is….HockeyApp

I went for HockeyApp. Partly because I was already somewhat familiar with it (at least with the name), but also because it supports all multiple mobile platforms, including Android and Windows Phone, which is quite interesting. I noticed that Microsoft acquired HockeyApp in December 2014. This of course raises the question if Microsoft will not do the same as Apple did, i.e. drop support for other platforms. However, recent moves from Microsoft in the mobile space, e.g. the adoption of Xamarin and releasing major apps on the iOS platform, lead me to believe that they will not do that and will stick to their cross-platform approach.

Another reason for choosing HockeyApp is the availability of a Jenkins plugin for HockeyApp. And after all, I needed to include this TestFlight replacement into my Jenkins build pipeline.

Configuring the HockeyApp plugin is just as easy as the TestFlight plugin. First you configure a Default API Token in Manage Jenkins – Configure System and then you configure the Post-build Action Upload to HockyApp. Everything else was already in place, the ipa and dSYM.zip files were already present and I had a build.properties file containing the changelog.



So there you go, Apple drove me into the arms of Microsoft with their sub-par service. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

  • JhaiChrispy

    Nice post – I’ve recently been looking at HockeyApp as well to replace test flight so it was nice to see some of the pros it has going for it. I think I’ll make the move as well, especially with all of Apple’s drawbacks you mentioned. Thanks!

  • Mark Gibaud

    We did exactly the same thing a week ago and have had good success so far!

    We use HockeyApp to support a staging environment with staging versions of all dozen or so dependent services, and Apple’s TestFlight for a “pre-production” environment when we’re a little more confident in a release candidate.

    • Ok, I can see how that could make sense. Just wondering what’s the advantage then to use TestFlight and not stick with HockeyApp? One system better than two? Duplicate users, etc. etc.

      • Mark Gibaud

        In theory yeah, a little more complication. However we’ve kept our staging audience (a dozen devs + qa) largely separate from our internal beta testers (40+ people across our company). So switching the beta testers over to HockeyApp right now involves a bit of upheaval, and it’s also interesting to have a bet on Apple TestFlight’s so that we benefit from any unique innovation or Apple-only-integration they might have…

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  • Great post! Apple is really going to hurt TestFlight with those restrictions. The iOS 8 part doesn’t surprise me though: https://developer.apple.com/news/?id=10202014a

    In any case, my team is now debating what we should use, so your post was timely for me. Are there not Jenkins plugins for any of the alternatives you mentioned? Having never used HockeyApp before, do you have any tips for getting things set up?