Deploying iPhone Apps to Real Devices


In our previous article on getting started with iPhone development, you learnt how to use the iPhone SDK provided by Apple to develop your first iPhone application. For testing purposes, you used the iPhone Simulator, provided as part of the iPhone SDK. While the iPhone Simulator is a very handy tool that allows you to test your iPhone applications without needing a real device, nothing beats testing on a real device. This is especially true when you are ready to roll out your applications to the world – you must ensure that it works correctly on real devices. In addition, if your application requires accesses to hardware features on an iPhone/iPod Touch, such as the accelerometer and GPS, you need to test it on a real device – the iPhone Simulator is simply not adequate.

A repeated criticism from iPhone app developers comes from the difficulty they find in deploying their application to a real iPhone or iPod Touch. Apple, for better or worse, has designed a process involving many hoops that must be jumped through, and this has prompted developers to grumble, and others to explore alternative, non-official open tool chains, which do not require app signing. In this article, I will walk you through the steps you need to take in order to test your iPhone apps on a real device, be it iPhone, or iPod Touch, the offical Apple way.

Sign up for the iPhone Developer Program

The first step towards testing your applications on a real device is to sign up for the iPhone Developer Program at There are two programs available – Standard and Enterprise. For most developers wanting to release applications on the App Store, they can simply sign up for the Standard program, which costs US$99. Check out to know more about the differences between the Standard and Enterprise programs.

Start your Xcode

In order to test your iPhone applications on your device, you need to obtain an iPhone Development Certificate from the iPhone Developer Program Portal. This needs to be done once for every device you wish to test your apps on. The following sections walk you through the various steps, from obtaining your certificate, to deploying your applications onto the device.

First, obtain the 40-character identifier that uniquely identitfies your iPhone/iPod Touch. To do so, connect your device to your Mac and start Xcode. Select the Window > Organizer menu item to launch the Organizer application. Figure 1 shows the Organizer application showing the identifier of my iPhone. Copy this identifier and save it somewhere. You will need it later on.

Figure 1 Obtaining the identifier for your iPhone/iPod Touch

Generating a Certificate Signing Request

Before you can request a development certificate from Apple, you need to generate a Certificate Signing Request. This step must be performed once for every device you wish to test on. To generate the request, you can use the Keychain Access application located in the Applications/Utilities/ folder (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 Launching the Keychain Access application

In the Keychain Access application, select the Keychain Access > Certificate Assistant menu and select Request a Certificate From a Certificate Authority (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Requesting a certificate

In the Certificate Assistant window (see Figure 4), enter your email address, check the Saved to disk radio button and check the Let me specify key pair information checkbox. Click Continue.

Figure 4 Providing certificate information

Choose a key size of 2048 bits and use the RSA algorithm (see Figure 5). Click Continue.

Figure 5 Specifying key pair information

You will be asked to save the request to a file. Use the default name suggested and click Save (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 Saving the certificate request to a file

Logging in to the iPhone Developer Program Portal

Once you have generated the certificate signing request, you need to login to Apple’s iPhone Dev Center (see Figure 7). Click on the iPhone Developer Program Portal link on the right of the page. Remember, you need to pay US$99 in order to access this page.

Figure 7 Logging in to the iPhone Dev Center

In the iPhone Developer Program Portal page, click the Launch Assistant button (see Figure 8) to walk you through the process of provisioning your iPhone and generating the development certificate.

Figure 8 Launching the provisioning assistant

You should see the welcome page as shown in Figure 9. Click Continue.

Figure 9 The welcome page of the provisioning assistant

First, you will be asked to create an App ID (see Figure 10). An App ID is a series of characters used to uniquely identify an application (or applications) on your iPhone. You only need to create an App ID once per application, i.e. you do not need a new App ID for new versions of your app. Enter a friendly name to describe this App ID (to be generated by Apple). Click Continue.

Figure 10 Creating an App ID

The next screen allows you to provide a description of your iPhone/iPod Touch. You need to provide the device ID that you have obtained earlier (see Figure 11). Click Continue.

Figure 11 Assigning a device for the provisioning

You are now ready to submit the certificate signing request to Apple (see Figure 12). The instructions on the screen show you the steps that you have performed earlier. Click Continue.

Figure 12 Generating a certificate signing request

In this screen, click the Choose File button (see Figure 13) to select the certificate signing request file that you have created earlier. Once the file has been selected, click Continue.

Figure 13 Submitting a certificate signing request

Provide a description for your provisioning profile (see Figure 14). A Provisioning profile will be generated so that you can download it at a later stage and install it on your device. Click Generate.

Figure 14 Naming your provisioning profile

A Provisioning profile will now be generated (see Figure 15). Once it is generated, click Continue.

Figure 15 Generating a provisioning profile

You are now ready to download the generated Provisioning profile onto your Mac (see Figure 16). Click Continue.

Figure 16 Downloading and installing your provisioning profile

Drag and drop the downloaded Provisioning profile (in the Downloads folder) onto Xcode (located in the Dock). This will install the Provisioning profile onto your connected iPhone/iPod Touch. Click Continue (see Figure 17).

Figure 17 Instructions to verify the installation

You can verify that the Provisioning profile is installed correctly on your device by going to the Organizer application and viewing the Provisioning section (see Figure 18) to see if the profile has been added.

Figure 18 Verifying the provisioning profile on the Organizer

Back in the iPhone Developer Program Portal, you are now ready to download and install the development certificate onto your iPhone/iPod Touch. Click the Download Now button (see Figure 19) to download the development certificate to your Mac. Click Continue.

Figure 19 Downloading and installing the development certificate

In the Downloads folder of your Mac, double-click on the developer_identify.cer file that you have just downloaded to install it into a keychain on your Mac. When prompted (see Figure 20), click OK.

Figure 20 Adding a certificate to the keychain

Back in the iPhone Developer Program Portal, you can now verify that the certificate has been installed properly in the Keychain Access application (see Figure 21). Click Continue.

Figure 21 Instructions for verifying the installation of the certificate

In the Keychain Access application, select the login keychain and look for the certificate named “iPhone Developer:” (see Figure 22). If you can see it there, your certificate is installed correctly.

Figure 22 Verifying the installation of the certificate

You are now almost ready to deploy your iPhone application onto your iPhone/iPod Touch. Click Continue (see Figure 23).

Figure 23 Instructions for installing your applications with Xcode

Click Done to dismiss the dialog (see Figure 24).

Figure 24 Finishing the installation

In Xcode, under the Active SDK item (if this item is not already on the toolbar, go to View > Customize Toolbar and add it to the toolbar), select the OS version number of the device that is currently connected to your Mac. In my case, my iPhone is running the older iPhone OS 2.0, hence I selected “iPhone Device (2.0)” (see Figure 25).

Figure 25 Selecting the active SDK

With your application project open in Xcode, press Command-R to run the application. You will now be prompted for permission to access the certificate saved in your keychain. Click Allow (or Always Allow) to go ahead with the signing (see Figure 26).

Figure 26 Signing your application with the certificate

Your application will now be deployed to the device. You can see its progress in the Summary tab of the Organizer application (see Figure 27).

Figure 27 Checking the Organizer for installation progress

Once the application is deployed onto your device, it will be running automatically. You can capture screenshots of your device by going to the Screenshot tab of the Organizer application, and pressing the capture button (see Figure 28).

Figure 28 Capturing screenshots using Organizer


In this article, you have seen the various steps required to deploy your application to your iPhone or iPod Touch. While the number of steps looked intimidating, it is actually quite straightforward. The iPhone Developer program allows you to provision up to 100 devices for testing purposes. Once a device is provisioned, you can then use the development certificate to deploy your applications onto it.


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