How to Transfer Ownership of an iOS App

Olle Lindholm
Olle Lindholm

In June 2013, Apple made it possible for developers to transfer the ownership of iOS apps. This is great news for developers, because it makes it easier to sell your apps on marketplaces like Flippa, or even buy one that’s established to improve upon.

There are two steps involved in transferring an app:

  1. Transfer the ownership within Apple
  2. Transfer the code outside of Apple

Let’s begin by transferring the ownership within Apple.

Transfer the ownership within Apple

I’m going to assume that you already have an agreement with another party, and that you’re happy to go through with the transfer. The transferor must have agreed to the master agreement, and your developer account must not be in the middle of a migration process.

Only the team agent with the Apple ID and Team ID can initiate and complete the transfer. If that describes you, then visit your iTunes Connect Panel, and press the Transfer App button to send your request to Apple. At this stage, you will be notified if your app meets the requirements for a transfer. Currently, the following criteria apply:

Transferable States

Your app needs to be in a transferrable state. Apple considers the following states transferable:

  • Pending Contract
  • Prepare for Upload
  • Developer Removed from Sale
  • Invalid Binary
  • Developer Rejected
  • Rejected

Your In-App purchases must also be in a specific state. Apple supports the following states:

  • Approved
  • Ready to submit
  • Developer Removed from Sale
  • Rejected

Other important restrictions

You can’t transfer an app that runs on a subscription, like magazine apps. This includes apps that have auto-renewal subscriptions, free subscriptions and non-renewing subscriptions set up for their in-app purchases. Apps that use iCloud and Passbook entitlements can’t be transferred either.

Does your app meet the criteria? If that’s the case, then you will be able to go through with the transfer. You’ll want to check the iTunes Connect Developer Guide to stay up to date with the latest guidelines.

Transfer time

When you have sent the transfer request, the recipient has up to 60 days to sign into iTunes Connect and accept the offer. Once it has been accepted, Apple takes about two business days to complete the transfer. After this period, the app will no longer appear in the transferor’s account.

The app’s users won’t be affected by the transfer. They will still be able to download the app as usual, and view the ratings and reviews. The app’s chart position will also be retained.

Congratulations! The first part of the transfer is now completed. For the second part, you need to share the code with the new owner and their team, so they can continue to build and maintain the app.

Transfer the code

But how do you give the new owner access to the code? The most popular option is to transfer a GitHub repository. This allows you to safely share your code with the new owner. Since this process is initiated by you, there’s no waiting or approval time.

To move the GitHub repository, you need to be an administrator of the account. If you are already an administrator, then take the following steps:

  1. Log in to your GitHub repository page.
  2. Select “Settings” in the repository action bar.
  3. Click “Transfer”.
  4. Read the warnings and heed them well. Enter the repository name to confirm that you’ve done this.
  5. Enter the GitHub username of the new owner and click “I understand, transfer this repo”.

GitHub repository requirements

Having problems with your Github transfer? Your GitHub repository can only be moved if it meets certain requirements. Here are a few of the most common problems:

  • Does your target account have a repository with the same name, or a fork in the same network? Remember to change it first.
  • Is this repository private? Make sure that the target account has a paid account with at least one private repository available.
  • Are you trying to transfer private forks? Only private root repositories can be transferred.

If you follow the requirements above, you should be able to transfer your GitHub repository straight away. Once you’ve given the ownership and the code to the new owner, you will have officially transferred your first iOS app.

In Closing…

The volume of iOS apps being created and sold is increasing dramatically, and this number is likely to grow even more with Apple’s simple transfer process. Apps remain a valuable business asset, but now they can finally change hands.

Have you transferred any apps lately or do you plan to do so in the future? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.