App Store Distribution
Once a Xamarin.iOS app has been developed, the next step in the software development lifecycle is to distribute the app to users using the iTunes App Store. This is the most common way of distributing applications. By publishing an application in Apple’s App Store, it can be made available to consumers worldwide.
Apple has indicated that starting in March 2019, all apps and updates submitted to the App Store must have been built with the iOS 12.1 SDK or later, included in Xcode 10.1 or later. Apps should also support the iPhone XS and 12.9" iPad Pro screen sizes.
Distributing an application – just as with developing an application – requires that applications be provisioned using the appropriate provisioning profile. Provisioning profiles are files that contain code signing information, as well as the identity of the application and the intended distribution mechanism. They also contain information about what devices the app can be deployed to for the non-App Store distribution.
It is important to note that to use iTunes Connect, and therefore publish an app to the App Store, you must be part of either an individual or organizational Apple Developer Program. You will not be able to follow the steps on this page if you are a member of an Apple Developer Enterprise Program.
Provisioning an App for App Store Distribution
Regardless of how you plan to release a Xamarin.iOS application, you'll need to build a Distribution Provisioning Profile specific to it. This profile allows the application to be digitally signed for release so that it can be installed on an iOS device. Similar to a Development provisioning profile, a Distribution Profile will contain the following:
- An App ID
- A Distribution Certificate
You can select the same App ID and Devices that you used for your development provisioning profile, but if you don't already have one, you will need to create a Distribution Certificate to identify your organization when submitting the app to the app store. The steps on how to create a Distribution Certificate are described in the section below.
Only Team Agents and Admins can create Distribution Certificates and Provisioning Profiles.
Creating a Distribution Certificate
Browse to the Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles section of the Apple Developer Member Center.
Under Certificates, select Production.
Click the + button to create a new Certificate.
Under the Production heading, select App Store and Ad Hoc:
Click Continue, and follow the instructions to create a Certificate Signing Request via Keychain Access:
Once you have created the CSR as instructed, click Continue, and upload the CSR to the Member Center:
Click Generate to create the certificate.
Finally, Download the completed certificate and double-click on the file to install it.
At this point, the certificate should be installed on the machine, but you may need to Refresh your profiles, to ensure that they are visible in Xcode.
Alternatively, it is possible to request a Certificate via the Preferences dialog in Xcode. To do this, follow the steps below:
Creating a Distribution Profile
Creating an App ID
As with any other Provisioning Profile you create, an App ID is required to identify the App that you are distributing to the user's device. If you haven't already created this, follow the steps below to create one:
- In the Apple Developer Center browse to the Certificate, Identifiers and Profiles section. Select App IDs under Identifiers.
- Click the + button and provide a Name which will identify it in the Portal.
- The App prefix should be already set as your Team ID, and cannot be changed. Select either an Explicit or Wildcard App ID, and enter a Bundle ID in a reverse DNS format like:
- Explicit: com.[DomainName].[AppName]
- Select any App Services that the app requires.
- Click the Continue button and following the on screen instructions to create the new App ID.
Creating a Provisioning Profile
Once you have the required components needed for creating a Distribution Profile, follow the steps below to create it:
Return to the Apple Provisioning Portal and select Provisioning > Distribution:
Click the + button and select the type of Distribution Profile that you want to create as App Store:
Click the Continue button and select App ID from the dropdown list that you want to create a Distribution Profile for:
Click the Continue button and select the certificate required to sign the application:
Click the Continue button and select the iOS devices that the Xamarin.iOS application will be allowed to run on:
Click the Continue button and enter a Name for the new Distribution Profile:
Click the Generate button to create the new profile and finalize the process.
You may have to quit Visual Studio for Mac and have Xcode refresh its list of available Signing Identities and Provisioning Profiles (by following the instructions in the Requesting Signing Identities section) before a new Distribution Profile is available in Visual Studio for Mac.
Selecting a Distribution Profile in a Xamarin.iOS Project
When you are ready to do a final build of a Xamarin.iOS application for sale in the iTunes App Store, select the Distribution Profile that was created above.
In Visual Studio for Mac, do the following:
Double-click the project name in the Solution Explorer to open it for edit.
Select iOS Bundle Signing and Release | iPhone from the Configuration dropdown:
In most cases, the Signing Identity and the Provisioning Profile can be left as their default values of Automatic and Visual Studio for Mac will choose the correct profile, based on the Bundle Identifier in the Info.plist:
If required, select the Signing Identity and Distribution Profile (the one created above) from the drop-downs:
Click the OK button to save the changes.
Configuring your Application in iTunes Connect
Once the application is successfully been provisioned, the next step is to configure the apps in iTunes Connect, which is a suite of web based tools for, among other things, managing iOS applications in the App Store.
Your Xamarin.iOS application will need to be properly setup and configured in iTunes Connect before it can be submitted to Apple for review and ultimately, be released for sale or as a free app in the App Store.
For more details, please see our Configuring an App in iTunes Connect documentation.
Submitting an App to iTunes Connect
Once the application is signed using the Distribution Provisioning Profile and the app is created in iTunes Connect, the application binary is uploaded to Apple for review. Upon a successful review by Apple, it is made available in the App Store.
For more information on publishing applications to the App Store, see Publishing to the App Store.
Automatically copy .app bundles back to Windows
When building iOS apps in Visual Studio and the Mac Build agent, the .app bundle is not copied back to the Windows machine. Xamarin Tools for Visual Studio 7.4 adds a new
CopyAppBundle property that allows CI builds to copy .app bundles back to Windows.
To use this functionality, add the
CopyAppBundle property to the .csproj under the property group you wish to apply this functionality to. For example, the following example shows how to copy the .app bundle back to the Windows computer for a Debug build targeting the iPhoneSimulator:
<PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)|$(Platform)' == 'Debug|iPhoneSimulator' "> <CopyAppBundle>true</CopyAppBundle> </PropertyGroup>
This article covered the key components in preparing a Xamarin.iOS application for distribution in the App Store.