Phased Release for Automatic iOS Updates

As announced by Apple at the WWDC 2017 there will be a new AppStore coming this year with the possibility of a phased release for automatic updates. The new feature will provide companies and developers the chance to roll out new app releases to a smaller user base to see if the new version is stable and if the new feature is appreciated by the customers. Apple offers the following steps:

  • Day 1: 1 percent
  • Day 2: 2 percent
  • Day 3: 5 percent
  • Day 4: 10 percent
  • Day 5: 20 percent
  • Day 6: 50 percent
  • Day 7: 100 percent

Apple selects users for each bucket randomly based on their Apple ID, which is better than the device ID, because users may have several devices like an iPhone and iPad and then they get the same app on each device. And users can only be selected by Apple if they turned automatic updates ON.

Once an app is configured for the phased release, the app must pass each step, which is from my point of view not really flexible. Maybe companies want to start the phased release with a bigger customer group than 1, 2 or 5 percent to get faster feedback. However, on the other side it provides a nice way to monitor new features in the live environment and to react on possible issues and it’s the right way to give companies and developers more options to release an app. Stopping the phased release is possible. Developers have the option to push the app to 100% at any time via the iTunes connect.

If a problem occurs on live, developers have the option to pause the phased release at any time up to 30 days. But they can’t pause the app longer than 30 days. Once the 30 days have passed the app will be automatically released again, which is from my point of view another drawback. And even worse a developer is not able to stop the roll out completely in case something really bad is happening (at least I wasn’t able to find any information about it).

From my point of view Apple is moving in the right direction with the new AppStore and the possibility of phased releases but on the other side there are many restrictions companies and developers have to deal with. Comparing the phased release with Googles stage rollout there is room for improvement for Apple. But, it’s the right way and maybe they loosen up the restrictions to give developers even more power to release their apps in the way they want to release it.

If you want to get more information about phased release, check Apple’s FAQ or the developer’s app store guide.

If you want to get the full picture about the new things Apple announced at the WWDC 2017, watch the keynote here.


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