Last updated April 19, 2019
The Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP) is a free Apple service offered by Apple to businesses and organizations. The purpose of VPP is to simplify the process of purchasing and distributing apps. In this article, we will discuss the features this program has to offer and how it can benefit your deployment.
In the past, an employee using a company-owned device had to purchase apps through the App Store manually from the device itself. This often meant that employees had to pay for apps themselves and be reimbursed, which meant extra time and effort for both administrators and the device users. It also permanently associated the license with the employees Apple ID, making the employee the owner of the license and not the company.
The Volume Purchase Program simplifies this process by allowing businesses to purchase app licenses en masse for all users from a single company account. These licenses are then owned by the company and not the user whose Apple ID it was purchased with. VPP also provides multiple payment options: licenses can be purchased at the time of the order with a credit card, or a specific amount of VPP credit can be paid for by purchase order to be redeemed later.
Prior to VPP, users had to enter their Apple ID credentials in order to install an app, at which point that user was given ownership of the license. For businesses, a common solution was to create a single Apple ID and distribute the credentials to their users. This solution had its own complications. For example, any user with the company’s credentials could login to the Apple ID account and make undesirable changes, or if the password was reset, all users would need to be notified. It also violated Apple Terms of Service, as using a single Apple ID allowed a company to share a single app license with all of their employees.
Since VPP app licenses are owned by the company, licenses can be assigned, revoked and re-assigned to users or devices at any time. This eliminates the need for a shared Apple ID account, and, if desired, the need for an employee to use an Apple ID on the device at all.
With device-based assignment, app licenses are assigned to a device by serial number rather than to an Apple ID. One license will be allocated for each device the app is installed on. With this method, apps will remain on devices regardless of the Apple ID in use, if any. On supervised iOS devices, this method allows apps to be installed without prompting or notifying the user. Businesses looking for a zero-touch deployment process will find this to be particularly beneficial.
When VPP apps are deployed with user-based assignment, device users will be prompted to enter an Apple ID if one is not already present on the device and be invited to join the VPP program of the company. While this requires more user interaction than device-based licensing, it is useful in situations where a single user will be utilizing multiple devices. The app license is usable on all devices that are using the Apple ID. As a result, only one license will be allocated from the total number available in the VPP account.
App licenses can be distributed to Apple IDs using redemption codes, where a code can be redeemed once by an Apple ID for a particular app license. Users will be prompted to enter a code in order to redeem the purchase and complete the installation of the app. After entering the redemption code, ownership of the app license is transferred permanently to that user ID.
These codes are delivered in a spreadsheet format and can be distributed to users through various methods, including: assigning them via SimpleMDM, sending a URL by email, assigning to devices through Apple Configurator, or providing codes to users manually. When used with SimpleMDM, SimpleMDM will automatically redeem the codes for users when apps are installed.
The Apple B2B VPP program allows app developers to distribute their apps to specific VPP accounts of their clients instead of using the public App Store. This is particularly useful for third-party app developers because it allows them to control who has access to download their app. For example, if an app developer has been contracted to build an app that is intended only for internal use within their customers’ business, the developer can publish it so only that customer can access it.
Since these apps are not visible to the public, Apple’s approval process for publishing B2B apps is more lenient than it is for the public App Store.
B2B App Store apps can be offered for free or as paid apps.
For more information on the different methods of distributing a business app, read How To Deploy Custom iOS Apps For Businesses.
Apple VPP accounts can be connected to SimpleMDM to easily distribute apps to managed devices. When VPP apps are deployed via SimpleMDM, licensing is handled automatically and app installations can happen immediately. A significant advantage offered by utilizing VPP with MDM is the ability to “silently” install and update apps on devices remotely via MDM, without requiring any interaction from the user. We have written an article on this topic which can be found here: Install iOS Apps Silently.
SimpleMDM administrators have the option to select the method of license assignment, as described below, when deploying apps. App licenses can also be revoked and re-assigned remotely through the interface.
Apple is regularly expanding the availability of the Volume Purchase Program to new countries. A complete list of countries that VPP is available in can be found under the “Availability” section of this article from Apple’s documentation.
Organizations can obtain a VPP account through Apple Business Manager. These steps may include but are not limited to: creating an agent account associated with your organization email address, establishing an authority contact within your organization, providing business information such as company address and D-U-N-S number, and agreeing to Apple’s terms and conditions.
To get started, visit the Apple Business Manager website.