Today the Appflow team put the finishing touches on a brand new feature that we’ve been working on for almost a year.
It’s possibly the most anticipated Appflow feature since we first launched the product (originally called “Ionic Pro”) back in summer 2017, and the one we’re most excited about personally: the ability to publish directly to the Apple and Android app stores, right from Appflow.
CI/CD for mobile = huge hassle
For those of you who are new to the Ionic ecosystem, Appflow is a continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) solution that makes it easy to continuously build, deploy, and update your Ionic apps over time.
We built it because continuous delivery for mobile applications remains a huge hassle for most development teams. Even with the prevalence of general purpose CI/CD tools like GitLab and CircleCI, the fact remains that these solutions aren’t optimized for mobile, and many still require advanced DevOps expertise.
For example, you have to know how to programmatically upload a mobile binary, entirely in the command line, without the help of a wizard or graphical interface. There are tons of moving parts. And if you get just one thing wrong, it won’t work.
The average mobile or web developer doesn’t have that kind of expertise. And why should they? They certainly have enough on their plate.
As a result, nearly a quarter of developers aren’t using any type of DevOps solution. And it shows in their release cadence*:
- 59% of teams without a CI/CD solution release software less than once per month
- 17% will release less than once per quarter
In contrast, teams using Appflow are 81% more likely to release multiple times per week or more, compared to teams that aren’t using a CI/CD tool.
*Data based on our soon-to-be-published Annual Developer Survey.
Bringing CI/CD to Every Mobile Developer
With Ionic Appflow, we make it easy for teams to build and release new versions of their app, without the hassle of maintaining their own build environment, and without being a DevOps expert. Just give us a few basic inputs, and we’ll take care of the rest.
You can set up a fully automated build pipeline by following our simple, step-by-step process. And you can send live updates directly to user devices, without having to go through the app stores.
The Last Mile: Submit to App Stores
However, up until now, we’ve been unable to take those improvements all the way to the app stores. That’s why we’re so excited about this release: it truly represents the last mile for development teams, and the fulfillment of our original vision (at least for now).
With this release, you can now automate the entire app delivery and release process: from building a native binary to publishing on the app stores and updating apps over time.
Why is this good news for developers?
No Mac hardware requirement
For starters, it eliminates the dreaded Mac hardware requirement.
In order to build and publish an iOS app to the App Store, you need a Mac OS device. And unfortunately, major cloud service providers like AWS don’t offer Mac OS VMs that you could easily spin up when needed. That means you either have to acquire, setup, and maintain your own Mac OS servers, or you have to find a highly specialized cloud provider.
But with Ionic Appflow’s new push to app stores feature, you don’t need a Mac to build and deploy your Ionic apps on the iOS App Store. We allow you to build for iOS in our secure cloud environment, and then publish directly to the App Store—all without needing any Mac OS hardware of virtual machines.
Replacing manual steps with automation
With our submit to app store feature, you can fully automate your release process. When a new version is checked in, you can set it up to automatically trigger a sequence of events that, once approved, result in a new app store submission.
In the process, we’re eliminating a bunch of manual steps:
- Downloading a native binary (or building it locally)
- Logging in to your Google Play account
- Uploading the build
- Selecting how you want to release it
- Logging into your Apple account
- Uploading the IPA file (you have to be on a Mac to do this)
Using Ionic Appflow, all you need to do is approve the final step of publishing, add any meta data and versioning notes, and you’re done.
How app store submissions will work with Appflow
Here’s a quick overview of how it all works:
We now support two new destinations, which you can create by navigating to the Destinations tab located under the Deploy tab.
You can create a new destination now and choose from the Web Deploy Channel (Live Updates Channel) Apple App Store or Google Play.
Apple App Store
The Apple App Store destination allows you to upload your finished binaries to the App Store Connect service for iOS devices.
For this destination you will need the following:
- Your Apple ID
- An App-specific password for your Apple ID
- The Apple ID for the App from App Store Connect
The Google Play destination allows you to upload your finished binaries to the store for Android.
The field “Track” refers to the track on the Google Play Store that the app will be uploaded into. Package name should be written in reverse domain name format, e.g. com.yourdomain.yourappname.
Then click “Save”, and now you’ll be able to choose the destination when creating a build or automation and the created binary will be uploaded automatically at the end of a successful build.
Once you’re done, you’ll just need to go to the app stores to approve the final submission, and add any meta data. We also have more details in our docs to help you gather all of the information you’ll need above.
Solving Continuous Delivery for Ionic Developers
For too long, mobile developers have lacked a purpose-built mobile DevOps solution that could help them automate the entire delivery process. With Appflow, we’re making it dead simple to release as often as you like, with a simple but powerful solution that’s built for mobile and web developers — not DevOps experts.
And with this release, we’re taking it even further by bringing that all the way to the app stores, replacing a bunch of manual processes and eliminating hassle for development teams.
Get started with Appflow
If you’re interested in getting your hands on it, here are the details:
At the moment, the publish to app stores feature will be available as an add-on for customers on an Appflow Scale plan. Down the road, we hope to roll it out to our Launch and Growth plans as well.
If you’d like to try it out and see how it can help meet your app delivery goals, be sure to register for our upcoming live demo. I’ll give a quick walkthrough of mobile CI/CD and why it’s important, and then jump into a demo of our new app store publishing feature.
Or if you’re ready to give it a try, contact our Sales team directly to learn more about how to upgrade to Scale plan.