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Today I Learned: You Cannot Transfer Ownership of iOS Applications

I have recently completed my first iOS application on behalf of Furnishly, the local furniture exchange. All the release bugs have been worked out and the app is available on the app store. Yesterday, I started looking into how to transfer all the assets over to the owner of Furnishly so he could continue development and review download data on iTunes connect.

On github, this was a snap. Simply go into the administration section for the private repository, scroll down to the Danger Zone and click the transfer button under transfer ownership. Then type in the name of the repository and the new owners user name and hit transfer. Simple, easy.

In iTunes connect, it is a completely different story. There is no obvious way to transfer the application in the UI. Searching around in the FAQ surfaced this gem.

I sold my app to another developer and can no longer distribute it on the App Store. Can I transfer the app to the new developer’s iTunes Connect account?
No, you can’t transfer the app to another developer account on iTunes Connect. To add the app to another account, remove the app from the current account and upload it to the new iTunes Connect account.

Note that uploading the app to a new iTunes Connect account will disable current customers from receiving automatic and free updates of your application. All customer reviews, rating, and ranking information will be reset. You will not be able to reuse the app name and SKU in the old account. If you have uploaded a binary or used the app with the iAd Network, your Bundle ID will not be reusable either.

So apparently the way to transfer ownership of this app to the non technical owner is to:

  1. ask him to create a apple developer account
  2. wait to get accepted
  3. generate new application keys
  4. rebuild the application with the new keys
  5. delete the old application build from my account
  6. resubmit the new application via his account

Oh and all the folks that have downloaded the app in the mean time from my account are pretty much never going to get an update. All the ratings you might have received will disappear.

Seriously this is a horrible way to handle what seems to me would be a common occurrence. Did Zinga have to follow this process when they bought DrawSomething?

Anyone have advice?

5 responses to “Today I Learned: You Cannot Transfer Ownership of iOS Applications

  1. Jacob May 25, 2012 at 8:25 am

    First, sell your app to Zynga…

  2. Henry Chan May 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Create the new app with the new license and new name. Once live, go back and create one modification to your app to pop up and inform the user that a new app is available. You can even provide a link to the download. The update text on iTunes can also let the users know.

  3. Pat June 5, 2012 at 8:33 am

    You nailed it in one.. it’s all abot the app keys, which can be traced back to an individual or organization. A new app from a new developer can’t take over a previous app’s “identity”. Its safer for the user this way.. well, in theory it is.

  4. eekay81 June 8, 2012 at 5:18 am

    It’s not user friendly. We’ll all recognize this from the Tweetie / Twitter app overtake; luckily that app was released for free after the transaction and pimpin of the app.

    95 out of 100 times, companies buy Apps (or the entire company) from developers because they want to integrate the app’s functionality and expand / change its course so this will lead into a totally new product. Then it won’t ache as much that the original app will disappear.

    When i’d create an app for a customer i would ask – and assist – them into creating the appropriate account and only release the app under their newly created developer account.

    And if a smaller company just wants to buy you out, they will have to do the marketing over for themselves. This also saves your developer identity and won’t let them ride on your work.

  5. Pingback: iTunes: Transferring the ownership of an app to another company « DonkeyCat

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