iOS Developer Program: from individual to company

I thought it was worth writing about my experience converting my iOS Developer Program account from an individual to a company since a lot of people on Twitter were taking an interest. I can’t claim objectivity or that my experience will mirror yours, but hopefully you can be better prepared than I was.

First things first. Can you even make the transfer? Despite claims to the contrary, it is possible. I think the process is often confused with the ability to move applications or whole accounts between companies (which isn’t currently possible).

It’s all covered in the FAQ which reads like this:

If I enroll as an Individual, can I change to a Company later?

To convert your iOS Developer Program Membership from an Individual to a Company please contact us. As part of the conversion process, you may be asked to submit business documents proving your companys identity.

As the link in the FAQ requested, I send an email using the “Contact us” form. Just over two business days later they replied saying that I needed to give them a call. It’s not clear why they couldn’t have just said that in the FAQ!

The next morning I rang. They answered immediately but it was a poor line, though this could have been Skype. Despite that the call only took a couple of minutes.

He explained that the provisioning portal would not be available while the process was being completed and that I would not be able to upload new binaries, either updating existing applications or creating new ones. This could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Sure, fine, that’s what I was expecting. He said I would get an email in a few minutes; I should follow the instructions on that.

Knowing that I wouldn’t have access to the provisioning profile, I updated my certificates and was pretty confident that I wouldn’t need to make a new release for a few weeks.

The email came pretty much immediately. There’s some web form to fill in. Now I’m back full-circle. Why did I need to call if I need to go to a web page to start the process?!

The form requests the kind of information you’d expect: company name, address, names/addresses of the people with legal authority over the company. I was expecting to have to give the company number, but the didn’t ask for that at this stage. And I wasn’t expecting the company website URL to be a mandatory field, but it was. (I created a temporary Google Sites page for the purpose.)

Clicking submit, Apple now say that they will review the application.

They did not, however, tell me that I would effectively no longer be a paid member of the Developer Program. This meant that I could not access the iOS5 betas that had just started circulating. I had already installed beta two on my iPad and a matching version of the SDK on my MacBook, so it wasn’t too bad initially. I would revise this opinion later on.

A couple of days later, Apple requested information about my company. By fax. Here’s a company that thinks that DVD-writers are last years technology and it’s insisting that I use a fax machine to communicate with them!

I replied to their email, including their reference number, attaching an electronic copy of the documentation that they had requested. I offered to send a fax if that was not acceptable.

A couple of days later I received an acknowledgement from Apple, so I assumed that all was okay.

Weeks passed.

(Okay, that might be a little melodramatic.)

No access to iTunes Connect was a little inconvenient but things got worse at the beginning of August when iOS 5b2 expired meaning that my iPad was unusable.

I pinged an email to Apple asking about the progress of my application but received no reply.

I think that I was remarkably patient under the circumstances. I waited another three weeks before I sent another message. And then, poking around the parts of the Developer Support website that I could still access, I found that there was a ‘Contact us’ form with a specific ‘Let me know about the progress of my enrolment’ option, so I sent a message from there as well.

That was on a Friday evening. I’m still not sure what hours they work — whether the have local teams or only operate on US hours — so I wasn’t expecting anything to happen immediately.

On Monday, just before nine in the morning as I was heading into my day-job, I got a call from an unknown US number. It turned out to be Apple.

The good news was that my transfer had been approved. I would need to accept the Developer agreement again — last time it was for me as an individual, this time for me as a director of my company — and then I would be all set. There was no acknowledgement or apology of the amount of time it had taken and I didn’t feel like pushing the point. I assume that one of my messages prompted the call and the approval, but whether my virtual prod was actually required or not is anyones guess.

I accepted the developer agreement and immediately got some of my access rights back. I could access the Member Centre for example but it took until later the following day before the App Store showed my company name. Shortly after that I got full access to iTunes Connect again.

So, in short, the process is both possible and works. If I had to offer any advice, I would suggest assuming that the process could take a couple of months and that during that time you would have no access to anything currently covered by an NDA, including beta releases and iTunes Connect. If it goes quicker for you, great. If not, at least you’ll be better prepared than I was.


One response to “iOS Developer Program: from individual to company”

  1. My experience was similar. Though I’ve found that if you’re proactive and call them while things are processing, they often can move you through the process right on the phone.