Posts tagged with "TestFlight"

A TestFlight Update: Patched, But Still Broken

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the poor performance of TestFlight, the app that App Store developers rely on for beta testing their own apps. Today, thanks to a couple rounds of Feedback submissions, TestFlight is working better than before, but it’s not fixed. With WWDC around the corner, I thought I’d provide a quick update and share a few suggestions for fixes and features I’d like to see Apple implement.

One of the benefits of writing about TestFlight last year was that it became clear to me that, although my use of the app was unique, I wasn’t alone. Other writers who test a lot of apps and super fans who love trying the latest versions of their favorite apps got in touch sharing similar experiences, which convinced me that the issue was related to the number of betas I had in TestFlight. My experience was one of the worst, but with others in a similar boat, I took the time to file a Feedback report to see if there was anything that could be done to improve TestFlight.

An example of a beta app set to automatically update. But at least on my iPhone, none do.

An example of a beta app set to automatically update. But at least on my iPhone, none do.

That initial Feedback attempt ultimately went nowhere. Then, I got busy and resigned myself to getting by as best I could. However, getting by was no longer an option as the Vision Pro’s release date approached. That added a significant number of new betas to my TestFlight collection. By March, the Mac version of TestFlight had stopped working entirely. With apps lined up in my review queue, that posed a problem I couldn’t work around.

I removed inactive betas using my iPhone and removed myself from testing as many active betas as I could bear. However, nothing worked, so I filed another report with the black box known as Feedback. Fortunately, this time, it worked. After some back-and-forth sharing logs and screen recordings of TestFlight failing to load any content, I received a message that something had been adjusted on Apple’s end to shake things loose. Just like that, TestFlight was working again, although sluggishly.

TestFlight once again loads betas on my Mac, but not always with icons.

TestFlight once again loads betas on my Mac, but not always with icons.

My immediate problem is fixed, and I’ve been managing old betas more carefully to avoid a repeat of what happened on the Mac before. However, it’s clear that TestFlight needs more than just the quick fix that solved the worst of my problems. First of all, although TestFlight works again on my Mac, it’s slow to load on all OSes and clearly in need of work to allow it to handle larger beta collections more gracefully. And there’s a lot of other low-hanging fruit that would make managing large beta collections better on every OS, including:

  • the addition of a search field to make it easier to quickly locate a particular app
  • sorting by multiple criteria like developer, app name, and app category
  • filtering to allow users to only display installed or uninstalled betas
  • a single toggle in the Settings app to turn off all existing and future email notifications of new beta releases
  • attention to the automatic installation of beta updates, which has never worked consistently for me
  • a versioning system that allows users to see whether the App Store version of an app has caught up to its beta releases
  • automatic installation of betas after an OS update or ‘factory restore’ because currently, those apps’ icons are installed, but they are not useable until they’re manually re-installed from TestFlight one-by-one

It’s time for Apple to spend some time updating TestFlight beyond the band-aid fix that got it working again for me. It’s been a full decade since Apple acquired TestFlight. Today, the app is crucial to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and visionOS development, and while it’s not as critical to macOS development, it’s used more often than not by Mac developers, too. Apple has gone to great lengths to explain the benefits of its developer program to justify its App Store commissions generally and the Core Technology Fee in the EU specifically. TestFlight is just one piece of that program, but it’s an important one that has been neglected for too long and no longer squares with the company’s professed commitment to developers.

TestFlight’s Inability to Handle Large Beta Collections Needs to Be Fixed

I’ve been thinking about app scalability a lot lately – most recently in the context of TestFlight, which I find is incredibly frustrating to use, at best, and, on the Mac, often unusable. This isn’t a new problem for me, but I haven’t mentioned it much in the past because I’ve suspected that my experience is colored by the fact that I’m an outlier. But, outlier or not, the app deserves more attention than it’s been given.

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TestFlight for Mac Has Finally Arrived

I’ve waited seemingly forever for TestFlight for Mac, so I’m pleased to report that a beta is finally available. The app was released late yesterday, so first thing this morning, I downloaded it and started testing.

Here’s what Apple’s developer news site has to say about its beta for testing betas:

Use the beta version of TestFlight for Mac to test your Mac apps. You can invite registered Apple developers to download this beta version and use it to test your apps on macOS Monterey beta 5. We’d also appreciate your feedback on TestFlight for Mac, which you can provide through Feedback Assistant.

I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with TestFlight for Mac yet, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was already populated with a long list of betas. I downloaded a couple of iPhone and iPad apps that are compatible with Apple’s M1 Macs, and the process was as simple and straightforward as using TestFlight on iOS or iPadOS. That said, this is still clearly a beta. The sidebar lists every single TestFlight beta in which I’ve ever been enrolled regardless of whether it has expired or is compatible with my Mac. Also, there’s no way to sort or search through betas. Instead, the order of the sidebar list appears to be random.

Still, this is an excellent beta 1. The app works for installing betas and provides a quick and easy way to send feedback to developers. I expect TestFlight for Mac to be adopted quickly because it’s a much better way to manage a large group of testers and to distribute builds to reviewers.

If you have a developer account, you can download TestFlight for Mac from the Applications section of the Beta Software Downloads page.

Apple Add Automatic Updates in TestFlight 3.0

Chance Miller at 9to5Mac:

The addition of automatic updates in TestFlight is a notable improvement. This means that when you’re beta testing an application, the app will automatically update whenever a new version is released by the developer. Previously, you’d have to go to the TestFlight app and manually install updates.

For developers, this also means that it will be easier to ensure that all beta users are using the most up to date version of the app.

If you’ve ever been on a TestFlight beta, you know how great this feature addition is. Personally I fell out of the habit of checking for app updates once I enabled automatic updates in the App Store, so I’m quite excited that this change will help me stay up to date on the TestFlight betas that I’m running.

TestFlight is an App Store app, so make sure your version has been updated to 3.0 from there. Once it has been, launch the app and accept or decline the automatic updates dialog that should pop up on launch.