Export IPA file from Xcode and install on your mobile

Needone App
3 min readFeb 7, 2019


This article will demonstrate:

  • Part 1: How to generate ipa using Xcode
  • Part 2: How to install the ipa on real device
  • Part 3: What happened when you download apps from App Store

Reason behind this

There are numerous tutorials teaching you how to create an iOS app, but few of them tell you how to do the test on when users update your apps. We can simulate this by:

  1. Generate the ipa file
  2. Install ipa on your device from mac

Part 1: Generate IPA using Xcode:

Step 1: Go Product -> Archives

This operation might take a while. Time to get a ☕️~

Step 2: Archives -> Distribute App

Before Xcode 12:

Xcode 12:

Step 3: Select Ad hoc, and you can also use Development as long as you have the device id registered in the profile. iOS App Store can't be used, I̵ ̵g̵u̵e̵s̵s̵ the reason is Apple will put additional encryption on the ipa and verify the certificate. See Part 3.

You can choose App Thinning method or simply just put None:

Normally automatically manage signing will do:

It will take a while to build and compile:

And finally you can click export it to somewhere convenient.

Part 2: Install on mobile

Go Windows -> Device and Simulators, select the target ipa you want to install and higher version to simulate the updates.

Part 3: What happened when you download apps from App Store

2020 Update

There are quite a lots of friends asking a similar question whether can they use the above method to install production/release ipa file on their iPhone/iPad.


The answer is no. The error msg you probably see is: “unable to install [your app name]”.

Before dig that reason, so what happened when you download and install Apps from App Store?

There are public key(s) issued by Apple sitting in your iPhone, whenever you download a new app and try to install on the mobile, it will automatically verify the app whether it is from the App Store.

The app downloaded from App store are encrypted.

When you export the ipa from the Xcode (Window → Organizer) using the way of App Store Connect. The ipa is not signed by Apple yet. Apple will sign and encrypt the ipa file when you upload to their server. That is the reason why if you are using the above methods trying to install the production/release ipa on your mobile is not working. As the the key mismatched.

Originally published at needone.app on February 7, 2019.