Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How to link to unreleased App Store apps

For a client I'm making an app that comes in 'full' and 'lite' versions. The client wanted to have a button in the lite version that opens the full version in the App Store on the device.  Now this was a little bit tricky because both the full and lite versions were in progress and hadn't been released yet. They didn't even have names.. I needed to release both apps at the same time so testing the link worked seemed impossible.

The solution was to have the 'upgrade' button link to simply open an html page on a site I own in Safari on the device. Doing this meant I could alter what the link actually did at any time.

Once the client had set up the apps in iTune Connect, I asked for the Apple ID of the full version of the apps (shown in iTunes connect on the App Info Page).

I then updated the HTML page that was opened by the app to contain the following (replacing the 123456789 with the real app ID of course).

<script type="text/javascript">
window.location = "itms-apps://itunes.apple.com/app/id123456789?mt=8"

Now when that button is pressed, Safari flashes up briefly (but doesn't actually display the page) and then the App Store app opens and displays the app. Voila!

Ah, I hear you say. Can't I just use the app name rather than the Apple ID? Well, yes you can. Here's a load of different ways of linking to apps on the app store.

For me though, these options weren't so good as my solution because:
  • There a fairly fiddly way the actual name is converted to a url-friendly name. Easy to get wrong.
  • My app names weren't finalized at the time of writing anyway.
  • If the client changes the name of the app, the link will break.


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