Why Phased Releasing Apps is the Future

By Priyanka Ranjan

Every iOS developer is familiar with the nerve-wracking experience of pushing the release button and having their app be available to thousands of users immediately. Apple never allowed their developers to have a fallback plan, until now.

What is a Phased Release?

The Phased Release feature allows a developer to gradually release an app to iPhone users who opted for automatic updates over a period of 7 days.

Why do a Phased Release?

A Phased Release can ensure smoother releases. For example, using performance tracking softwares (e.g.: Crashlytics), a developer can watch the app’s usage and gain early feedback from the 1%, 2% and 5% of users that received it. This will allow the developer to confidently release the app to all of its users by the end of the week.

You can also pause the release at any time for a maximum of 30 days (regardless of the number of pauses). However, if the release has been paused for more than 30 days, Apple will automatically re-enable the Phased Release process.

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If a crash or defect is discovered during the Phased Release program, the roll-out can be stopped and the developer can upload a new build at any time. However, it is still unclear if this new release will target the same set of users as the previous release (which is the case for Android’s staged rollouts) or a new set.

How can someone opt-in for a Phased Release?

As shown below, using iTunes connect, there is an option to release an update over a 7-day period. This option will only affect the current release and there is always the option to opt-in, or out, of all future releases.

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What was my experience?

I recently released an app using the Phased Release process and was able to get some interesting insights on this new iOS development feature.

Even though Apple only releases the app to 1% of users on the first day, the app is available for manual download to all users on the App Store. As a result, my app was downloaded by 10% of users on the first day, and 24% of users by the second day.

However, the experience for existing app-users can be confusing. For such users, the App Store continues to show “Open” vs. “Update.” As such, if an existing user wanted to update the app manually before the Phased Release rollout reached them, they would have to delete the existing app and re-download it from the app store.

Lastly, if all goes well and your app is successfully adopted by early users, you can cancel the Phased Release and opt-in to release to all your users. I would highly recommend this option, and would like to know about your experiences with Phased Release!

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About the author

Priyanka is a Software Engineering Manager at TribalScale, Dubai. She has a passion for developing iOS apps and is currently involved in Transformation and Delivery for some of the biggest brands in Dubai.

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