Impact of the app lifecycle: iOS, tvOS, iPadOS and macOS

Depending on who you are, macOS or iOS application lifecycle management can mean something different. Here’s how all types work together.

July 8 2024 by

Haddayr Copley-Woods

Circle illustrating app lifecycle management: sourcing apps, hosting apps, app reporting, deploying and updating apps, user experience

What is application life cycle management?

The short answer: it depends. Are you developing an app? Are you focused on the interaction of an app with a device? Are you managing the app lifecycle of iOS, tvOS, iPadOS and macOS devices used in your organization?

App lifecycle management for app developers

Developing an app has a life cycle of its own. The app lifecycle of app creation is the process of creating an app from initial planning to development through testing and maintenance and, in come cases, decommissioning and retirement.

Adhering to a best-practices workflow can improve the quality of the product, optimize the company and the app’s productivity and, of specific interest to Apple administrators, make managing and maintaining the apps easier.

Most iOS or macOS application life cycles include:

  • Defining app requirements
  • Developing the app
  • Testing and quality assurance
  • Deployment
  • Continuous updates and maintenance

The best include multiple iterations of this cycle within the general cycle itself: with the right planning, testing and QA happens throughout the development process as well as after the beta version is released, and the most responsive app developers keep an ongoing discussion going with users to update requirements based on suggestions and requests. You can think of it more as a spiral upward rather than a flat, closed circle.

Application lifecycle: iOS apps on an iPhone

An iOS application moves through several states as it runs on an iPhone. This is the encapsulated lifecycle, if you will: each version of the app has an individual cycle that can happen multiple times a day.

Every iOS application can, at one point or another, be in one of several states or transitioning between those states.

In the foreground, applications are always in one of these states:

  • Inactive: After a user taps the application icon, apps go through a very brief inactive state as it runs necessary functions to ready itself for use.
  • Active: An application is in the active state, fully functional to the user and receiving notifications from the server.
  • Not running: The application is available to the user but is not itself executing commands.

In the background, apps can be in the following states:

  • Backgrounded: While the UI isn’t visible to the user, it is still running.
  • Suspended: The app is in the device memory, but is not running any code.
  • Not running: the application is not yet needed (and not started) or has been terminated by iOS.

This active app lifecycle and its reported states are important to Apple administrators because these reported states, and the time that apps are transitioning between them, can impact safe and effective management.

MacOS and iOS app lifecycle management for Apple admins

Application lifecycle management for Apple admins is a workflow for managing every application used in their organizations.

It is vital that admins consider where to find the best apps, how to manage licenses and how to ensure they are continually updated and patched.

Application lifecycle management: security

Careful app management is crucial in the fight to keep organizational data, networks and access safe.

Most of the largest organizational breaches occurred through a third-party app failure. Ensuring that no one can take advantage of unpatched apps or zero-day vulnerabilities is one of the most important parts of maintaining a secure fleet.

With the right application lifecycle manager, organizations can successfully manage the complete lifecycle of applications in their environments. Proper app lifecycle management allows admins to deliver a flawless user experience while ensuring protection from the security risks that come with outdated software.

How to manage organizational app life cycles

There are iterating steps Apple admins must take to properly manage organizational apps, just as there are in the process of creating apps and in the lifecycle of each app in each device.

1. Sourcing apps

App Store

Perhaps upon first look, it seems obvious where to source all of the apps that employees need to get their work done: the Apple App Store.

After all, admins can source millions of applications at the App Store, and the entire ecosystem is paired with Apple Business Manager (ABM), Apple School Manager (ASM), and your mobile device management (MDM) provider like Jamf. This allows for purchasing and distributing malware-screened apps in bulk.

Unfortunately, not every app is available — especially apps created for your business’ specialty and, of course, custom apps.

Vendor-sourced apps

For those apps not available at the App Store, admins will need to either source directly from the creators of the apps or use an application lifecycle manager such as App Installers, part of the Jamf App Catalog.

2. Hosting apps

Apple App Store

Apple hosts the apps available at the App Store. They also don’t require an Apple ID when purchased in volume through an Apple Business account. Apps delivered through volume purchasing can also be set to automatically update.

Additionally, software developers can also create custom apps for their organizations, which Apple can host and verify.

Jamf Cloud Distribution Service

Jamf Cloud offers Jamf customers and admins easy cloud-based app hosting that seamlessly integrates with Jamf products, integrations and apps.

Cloud distribution point

Cloud hosting offers access to app packages almost anywhere, from vendors outside of Apple or Jamf such as Amazon S3 or Akamai NetStorage. Some organizations choose this option.

On-premises distribution point

Organizations with strict requirements for on-prem hosting that disallow the use of external, cloud-hosted services may self-host. While maintaining self-hosted distribution points requires additional effort and maintenance to synchronize contents, it is sometimes necessary for regulatory reasons. One thing to consider if there is any wiggle room in this policy: Remote users may not be able to access private distribution points without using a VPN.

3. App reporting

Ensure that whatever solution you use to manage apps has a robust and customizable reporting feature. Without a close organized look at app usage, organizations can lose money with unused licenses, and they can burden the system with unnecessary app duplicates. You’ll also want to ensure that reporting can confirm that all apps are updated, removing potential vulnerabilities.

You will want to ensure that you have an organized way to access and filter app usage and version data with tools such as:

  • Advanced search capabilities
  • Nuanced, sortable reports
  • Integrations with your MDM provider such as Splunk and Tableau
  • Jamf Pro dashboards that display all of this data in an easy-to-digest format

4. Deploying and updating applications

Automatic app updates

Especially when it comes to admins who source their applications from a variety of sources, it’s imperative to automate updates and patches as swiftly as possible. This is best accomplished through automation.

Automation not only removes burden from IT, but also ensures that security patches and updates apply immediately — before a bad actor can get in to your network. Jamf offers automation for these routine —yet time-sensitive— tasks through App Installers.

Packages and policies

Apple admins can use packages and policies to create automatic updates, as well.

Packages allow IT to package up an app, scope it to a device or profile and deploy it through a policy.

Policies run scripts, manage accounts and distribute software using commands that an admin has specified such as:

  • How often the policy should run
  • What triggers the policy to run
  • The users and computers for which it should run

Jamf Pro administrators can also create patch policies for automatic app patching based on the Jamf App Catalog and external patch definition feeds.

Many Apple admins use Jamf Title Editor. Jamf Title Editor enables admins to create and maintain their own custom titles within the Jamf App Catalog, or customize the information provided by Jamf app title definitions.

App Installers

Jamf’s App Installers can usher Apple admins through every step of the app lifecycle. App Installers works directly from the Jamf Pro console and offers a streamlined way to automatically:

  • Source
  • Host
  • Package
  • Validate
  • Deploy

When an organization takes advantage of App Installers, Jamf collects and packages up apps, updates and deployments that integrate directly with your existing structure. That saves organizations time and money.

Always consider the user experience

Throughout the application life cycle, admins must keep one thing in mind: the user experience. If employees find using corporate devices and programs to be cumbersome and unreliable, they find other ways to get work done, including personal storage and communicating apps that are neither corporate-managed nor particularly secure.

Organizations want users to experience no interruptions in their workflows. They want employee apps and tools to simply work. This maximizes employee buy-in and improves efficiency.

One way of improving employee satisfaction with apps is to put the power into their own hands with something like Jamf’s Self Service. Users can choose from a list of pre-approved apps and safely download them the minute they want it. No wait for IT to deploy the app to their device. They need it? They can get it and immediately get to work.

Whatever choices administrators make in supporting the app lifecycle, they should ensure they have the capacity for:

  • Silent installations
  • Notifications to users when updates have been made
  • Self-updates
  • Installations with no deferral option

A properly-maintained app lifecycle saves organizations time, money and a whole lot of hassle. It also contributes toward tighter security and happier employees. Planning to consciously follow this cycle while always keeping the user in mind can set organizations up to better equip the workforce of the future, as well.

Does app lifecycle maintenance sound overwhelming?

Trust Jamf to lead the way.