Thumb Down on Order Based Distribution with Apple VPP

This post is a gentle reminder to myself and others to avoid order based distribution at all cost based on a recent discovery in my organization. Follow along and I’m certain you will be convinced just as well. This post also will not contain any graphics other than the thumb down image so read at your own risk.


Over the years, I’ve written a few blog posts on Apple VPP.

AirWatch also published an excellent article on the overview of Apple VPP.

Understanding VPP Process Flows

Normally, I purchase apps in bulk within the VPP portal and then assign them within the AirWatch console accordingly with license-based/managed distribution as it’s more flexible with re-using and re-assigning license from one device to another. With order based distribution, however, you will have to be careful when assigning a code to the user as it cannot be reused at all! This is already a red flag when it comes to maximizing ROI.

“Order Based Distribution method uses Redemption codes for distributing the apps. Redemption codes are assigned to individual users through a Mobile Device Management (MDM) provider. In this method, the codes once redeemed cannot be reused. If a user downloads an application using a code, the same code cannot be reused to download the app. Even if the user uninstalls the application, this method still does not permit the reuse of redeemed codes.”

To start, an admin would purchase the app in the usual fashion through the VPP website. Then, proceed downloading the spreadsheet per description below:

“The initial requirement for using the Order Based Distribution method is to download the Redemption code spreadsheet from the VPP website. This spreadsheet lists the unique codes of all the purchased apps and books. Every time, a code is redeemed, the spreadsheet is updated thus tracking the number of codes redeemed.”

My devices are enrolled in the Apple DEP program which means they are supervised. However, I’m disappointed that the app cannot be pushed silently to the user’s device.

“Supervised iOS7+ devices will not be prompted to select or accept an application installation. They will only be prompted to enter their Apple passcode.”

Here comes a little good news, per Apple:

“Note: Unused redemption codes can be converted to licenses. Customers need to contact Apple to do this.”

Under license based distribution, click Sync License within Apps & Books on the AirWatch console will sync all licenses and associated applications.

“This adds the apps that were bought using license codes and also the apps that were initially bought using redemption codes and were later re-bought using license codes.”

Sadly, in my case, I was provided with just a list of redemption codes and redemption links. In the process of identifying what VPP account it was purchased with, I spoke with Apple support and went through different scenarios below.

  • This app was purchased as a redemption code instead of managed distribution
    • This means once a code is redeemed by an iPad, it cannot be used again ever even on the same iPad! (thus it can never be wiped)
    • Redemption requires Apple ID on each iPad which will be very tedious to manage especially with the large quantity
    • Even if they were purchased with the right VPP account, installation requires us to enter the device passcode on DEP/supervised devices
  • If in fact they were purchased with the right VPP account, we will then proceed to convert them to managed distribution through Apple support
  • If they were purchased with the wrong VPP account, Apple will NOT be able to transfer them to the right VPP account
    • One option is to get a refund of this purchase and re-purchase it again with the right VPP account

In the end, we re-purchased the apps and everyone is happy. No more order based distribution!

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