Apple launches support for unlisted App Store apps accessible via link

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The App Store now supports unlisted apps that are only accessible with a link, Apple has announced in an update on its developer website.

Unlisted app distribution allows developers to release apps that aren't meant for public use. Such apps won't appear in any App Store categories, recommendations charts, search results, or listings. Apps can also be accessed through the Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager.

Developers will be able to distribute apps to a limited audience, which could include part-time employees, partners, business affiliates, or conference attendees. In addition, apps can be distributed to employee-owned devices that might not be eligible for an MDM platform.

Apple says that apps aimed at "specific organizations, special events, or research studies, or apps used as employee resources or sales tools" are all good use cases for unlisted app distribution.

The feature is currently available by request only. Developers will need to submit a request to receive a link for an unlisted app. Apple notes that unlisted apps must be ready for distribution — the company will decline any app in a beta or pre-release state.

Developers will be able to create unlisted distribution links for both new and existing apps. If a request is approved, the app's distribution method will change to "Unlisted App" for both current and future versions. If the app is already listed on the App Store, its primary listing will remain unchanged.

What's not clear is how the app review process may change, if at all. Historically, Apple has taken a hands-off approach to apps distributed with enterprise certificates, until they see mass abuse.

More information about unlisted app distribution, as well as links to submit a request, are available on Apple's developer update website.