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Apple Signing Certificates: What They Are and How to Use Them
If you're an iOS developer or you sideloaded apps before, you've likely heard of Apple signing certificates. These certificates are an essential component of the iOS app installation and development process, as they allow developers to sign and distribute their apps securely and are required to sideload apps. In this article, we'll explore what Apple signing certificates are, why you need them, and how to use them.

What are Apple signing certificates?

Apple signing certificates are digital certificates issued by Apple that allow developers to sign their iOS apps. These certificates are used to verify the authenticity and integrity of the app, ensuring that it has not been tampered with or modified in any way.

When an iOS app is signed with an Apple signing certificate, it is cryptographically bound to the developer's identity. This means that users can trust that the app comes from a trusted source and has not been modified since it was signed.

Whenever you want to install an app on your iDevice, it needs be signed with a valid signing certificate by Apple because of numerous security mechanisms are built into the iOS. They are intended to both provide security and ensure that Apple retains control over what you do with your device.

Apps you can download from the AppStore, have been signed by Apple. If you want to install apps from different sources than the AppStore, these apps also needs to be signed by a valid certificate for an iOS device to allow the installation of it.

Why do you need Apple signing certificates?

Apple signing certificates are required for a variety of iOS app development and signing tasks, including:

Sideloading: If you want to install an app to your iDevice which is not available on the App Store, you can use ad-hoc or enterprise distribution signing certificates to sign them for your device.

Suggested article: Sideloading iOS Apps: What It Is and How to Do It Safely

Distributing apps on the App Store: If you want to distribute your app on the App Store, it must be signed with an Apple signing certificate.

Testing apps on physical devices: If you want to test your app on physical devices, you'll need to sign it with an Apple signing certificate and then install it on the device using Xcode.

Distributing apps to specific users or devices: If you want to distribute your app to a specific set of users or devices, you can use ad-hoc or enterprise distribution. In both cases, the app must be signed with an Apple signing certificate.

How to use Apple signing certificates

For sideloading:

You can use different software tools and online service to download and/or sign apps.

We suggest you to use AppDB, as it provides both, a source for safe IPA files (apps) as well as an advanced signing system.

They also offer free signing using "enterprise signing certificates".

These certificates are frequently revoked by Apple, meaning that the apps you signed with them often lose their validity after a few days to weeks. However, by using them, you can test and learn about sideloading without spending any money.

You can buy a reliable signing certificate for your device from here starting at 13.99€ with a full anti-revoke guarantee that makes your certificates way more reliable than the free enterprise certificates.

It can be used to sign an unlimited number of apps using app signing tools or signing platforms like AppDB.

You can also create a signing certificate for your device using your own developer account, which you can purchase from Apple for $99, and then use it to sign apps for your device.

For App Development:

Using Apple signing certificates for app development is relatively straightforward, but it does require a few steps. Here's a general how to:

Create a signing certificate: The first step is to create an Apple signing certificate. This involves generating a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your Mac and submitting it to Apple. Once Apple approves the request, you'll receive a signing certificate that you can use to sign your apps.

Configure Xcode: Once you have a signing certificate, you'll need to configure Xcode to use it. This involves creating a provisioning profile that specifies which devices can run the app and which signing certificate to use.

Sign your app: Once Xcode is configured, you can sign your app using the signing certificate. This involves selecting the correct signing certificate in Xcode and then building and archiving your app.

Distribute your app: Finally, you can distribute your app using the method of your choice, such as uploading it to the App Store or using ad-hoc or enterprise distribution.


Apple signing certificates are a critical component of the iOS app signing and development process.

They allow you to sign and install apps from other sources than the AppStore.

They also allow developers to sign and distribute their apps securely, ensuring that users can trust the app and that it has not been modified in any way. While using Apple signing certificates does require a few steps, the process is relatively straightforward, and with a little bit of practice, you'll be signing and distributing your apps in no time.