In this article, we will mention 5 of the major differences between “traditional” CI/CD for web and backend apps and mobile CI/CD for mobile apps to provide further insight on why a separate CI/CD pipeline is needed for mobile app projects.
1. Mobile app ecosystems are tightly controlled by the OS providers unlike the open ecosystems of the web world
The primary difference, the root of everything is that Apple and Google have very strict rules from development to deployment to running the apps.
For this reason, traditional CI/CD approaches and best practices cannot be applied out of the box and they have to be modified according to the specifications enforced by the OS providers such as the requirement of a Mac to build and deploy iOS apps.
Appcircle is built to accommodate these everchanging needs of the mobile world.
2. Special and separate expertise is required in mobile CI/CD instead of a universal approach
In many use cases, a DevOps expert can set up CI/CD for many different backend, web, or infrastructure stack, but mobile CI/CD is usually handled by mobile developers due to the unique requirements.
However, it is still CI/CD regardless, so it does require that specific mindset along with the mobility knowledge.
This is a complex situation, where it is challenging both for DevOps experts and mobile developers to get into a totally new mindset.
Appcircle alleviates this by providing the best practices and the standards from both worlds in an end-to-end, specialized mobile CI/CD platform.
3. The deployment target of mobile devices requires a compiled binary instead of instant deployments
Mobile CI/CD requires setting up an independent pipeline than web or backend stacks since it is based on the deployment of a compiled binary, which has to be installed on a mobile device from scratch every time.
This makes hotfixes or any similar differential or incremental code deployments impossible for mobile CI/CD. The reduced flexibility increases the time between releases and each release has more features packed, which increases the general complexity of the process.
The automated pipeline of Appcircle is specifically designed to handle the mobile app binaries and does not require any external tools for app build and delivery as well as actual mobile devices for testing thanks to the in-browser device previews.
4. End-user deployments for B2C apps are subject to app reviews and app release waiting periods, which is not prevalent in other stacks
The final stage of the delivery takes the complexities introduced by the binary-based system even further with a manual release step, on which you are at the mercy of Apple and Google.
This simply eliminates any possibility of fully automated frequent deployments like web apps.
As a result, control points become more crucial with the end-user deployment frequency is reduced. The errors should be detected at the earliest stage and mobile-app specific code analyses and tests should be incorporated at every step of CI/CD to avoid any issues slipping by to be encountered by the end-user. The mobile ecosystems are much less tolerant in general.
Appcircle supports for continuous testing (CT) with the flexible workflow structure that enables various control points.
Moreover, Appcircle provides full visibility of every step of the mobile app pipeline with notifications and reports.
5. Codesigning is a must for any type of deployment unlike other stacks
For any mobile app, there is a bureaucratic codesigning process, which has different steps and structures for iOS and Android. For other stacks, codesigning is not usually required or only required for the production environments, but for mobile projects, there are different signing identities to be managed and used for different purposes.
Creating, managing, and consuming mobile app code signing identities requires knowledge and finesse.
This introduces another layer of complexity on top of the already complex mobile CI/CD processes.
Appcircle eliminates these complexities with its centralized signing identities module that simplifies and streamlines the code signing process for mobile apps.
Due to these complexities, the mobile CI/CD is usually managed by mobile developers themselves and this is not an ideal situation as they spend 10-20% of their time on mobile CI/CD, which is not their core role.
The main issue here is that mobile CI/CD has its unique set of requirements and this requires a dedicated mobile CI/CD tool for the highest productivity.
By using a mobile CI/CD tool like Appcircle, the mobile CI/CD process can be automated end-to-end with the best practices.