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Create and share internal distribution build

Learn about what are internal distribution builds, why we need them, and how to create them.

In this chapter, we'll learn how to set up internal distribution builds.

Internal distribution build

Internal distribution builds are ideal for sharing updates with team members, allowing both technical and non-technical stakeholders to provide feedback directly. Unlike development builds, these do not require running a development server, simplifying the testing process.

Ways to distribute an app internally

Both Google and Apple provide built-in mechanisms for sharing apps internally:

  • Android: Using Google Play beta
  • iOS: Using TestFlight

However, both of these traditional methods have their limitations. For example, TestFlight limits to one active build at a time.

EAS Build for faster distribution

EAS Build speeds up the process. It creates shareable links for our builds and provides instructions on using them. It has a default configuration designed to facilitate internal distribution, offering a more efficient alternative to traditional methods.

Create an internal distribution build

To create and distribute a build with EAS Build, we need to follow these steps:


Configure preview build profile

From our initial setup in eas.json, we already have a default configuration that includes a preview build profile designed for internal distribution:

  "build": {
    "preview": {
      "distribution": "internal"

This is all we need to create our first internal distribution build. The preview build profile from the above snippet has a distribution property whose value is set to internal. This value allows us to share our build URLs with anyone so they to install it on their device and do not require a development server to run the app.

As discussed in the previous chapters, for non-app store builds, Android requires .apk and iOS needs .ipa formats. This applies to internal distribution builds as well. The distribution when set to internal, automatically creates the app binary in these file formats for devices.



  • Use the preview profile to initiate an Android build:
eas build --platform android --profile preview
  • This command triggers the EAS Build, and on the Expo dashboard, we can see the build's progress:
No Android app signing credentials required for internal distribution

Android app signing is non-restrictive. A new Android Keystore was generated for development builds, but since Android allows installing any compatible .apk, there's no need for a new keystore for preview builds.

Apple has stricter rules for app distribution on iOS devices. We need an ad hoc provisioning profile, which allows explicitly listing the devices allowed to run the app.

  • To add more devices, use eas device:create. This command registers an iOS device and gives us a URL or QR code to share for device registration:
eas device:create
  • This command registers an iOS device for app installation, generating a shareable URL (or QR code) for device registration.

    Tip: This command enables device registration at any time. However, only builds created post-registration will work on the newly added device.
  • To create the preview build, we need to use the preview profile with the eas build command:

eas build --platform ios --profile preview
  • This command triggers the EAS Build, and on the Expo dashboard, we can see the build's progress:
Alternative method to register devices using eas build:resign

eas build:resign command can be used to re-sign an existing iOS .ipa with a new ad hoc provisioning profile, eliminating the need for a full rebuild.



Once the build finishes, the Build artifact section gets updated, indicating that the build is complete. This section provides the methods available for running the development build on an iOS device: Expo Orbit and Install button.

  • Open the build's detail page. If you are sharing the build with someone else, you can send them the link to the build. They'll be able to open the build's detail page or build artifact details which include Expo Orbit.
  • Connect the Android or iOS device to our machine using USB.
  • Open the Orbit menu bar app.
  • Select the Device in the Orbit app.
  • Under Build artifact, click the Open with Orbit.
Alternate: Use Install and QR code
  • Open the build's detail page. If you are sharing the build with someone else, you can send them the link to the build page. They'll be able to open it and see build artifact details which includes Expo Orbit.
  • Click Install under the Build artifact section to display the Install on a test device popup.
  • Copy the link from Send a link to a device section and send it to the test device.



Tap the app icon on your device to start the preview build. There is no need for a development server.

Since we have already set up multiple app variants, we can see both the development and preview variants installed separately on our devices. For example:

  • On Android:
  • On iOS:


Chapter 6: Create and share internal distribution build

We successfully created internal distribution builds for Android and iOS, used ad hoc provisioning for iOS, and installed multiple app variants on the same device.

In the next chapter, learn about developer-facing and user-facing app versions and how to manage them automatically.

Next: Manage different app versions