Application Development Partners: Introduction to Visual Studio Mobile Center

Jonathan Gardner, Technology Solutions Professional, Application Development

Recent conversations in the Cloud Application Development Partners community have been around DevOps and how its adoption can add value for companies that implement it and around the efficiency that Xamarin brings to the development process through the ability to reuse code. This month, we’ll talk about mobile development, a topic that I am frequently asked about when working with partners, with questions along the lines of, “If I am using Parse today, how does Azure compare?”

In this post, I’ll introduce you to Visual Studio Mobile Center, and explain how partners can take advantage of what it offers.

Visual Studio Mobile Center: Mission control for your mobile apps

Two things to know about Visual Studio Mobile Center:

  • Visual Studio Mobile Center is still in Preview, and there will be more services added as it matures.
  • Visual Studio Mobile Center carries the Microsoft commitment to open source forward, supporting applications written in Objective-C, Swift, Java, Xamarin, and React Native, with plans to support Cordova, UWP apps, and more services in the near future.

Visual Studio Mobile Center page

Sign up for Visual Studio Mobile Center

Visual Studio Mobile Center roadmap

Lifecycle services

Visual Studio Mobile Center is build with the tools and principles of the DevOps workflow in mind. Currently, there are three lifecycle services in Mobile Center: build, test, and distribute. They work together to automate the application lifecycle.


The Mobile Center build service connects to a Git repository to create an installable package when code is committed or pushed to the repo. There is no requirement to provision machines running macOS to build iOS applications. Mobile Center handles the tasks of building and compiling iOS and Android applications from your code without any need for manual setup.


Testing  plays a large role in any automated environment. Before the application can be distributed, Mobile Center offers a test cloud of more than 2,000 real devices in 400 unique configurations to test the application. Mobile Center supports multiple languages, and it’s no different with testing. Testing in C#(UITest), Ruby (Calabash), or Java (Appium) are all supported.


After passing automated testing the application distribution function of Mobile Center alerts users that the application can be installed directly from their phones. This distribution method utilizes HockeyApp, now part of Visual Studio.

Monitoring services

Application analytics and telemetry are important for all applications but when testing mobile applications, there are additional metrics that are important for developers to review. Applications deployed through Mobile Center will collect crash information that provides a full stack trace about the crash, then prioritizes in the Mobile Center dashboard based on number of users seeing the issue. If you’re familiar with HockeyApp, the crash reporting service is based on the HockeyApp crash reporting features. Along with crash information, analytics on application use is also collected and to provide rich behavioral data on how people are using the app. These data are invaluable in streamlining future releases of the application.

Mobile backend services

Visual Studio Mobile Center functions as a front end for the power of Microsoft Azure. Mobile Center developers can take advantage of the robust identity capabilities offered by Azure Active Directory and scalable Azure Table storage services. Selective push notifications will soon be added to Mobile Center. Keep in mind, though, that you’re not limited to the services in Mobile Center. Developers that want to add advanced intelligence into their applications should take advantage of tools like Cortana Intelligence Suite and can add deep media integration through Azure Media Services.


Community call about Visual Studio Mobile Center on February 7

Join me on the next Application Developer Partner call for an in-depth discussion about Visual Studio Mobile Center.

Application Development Partner Community

Sign up for the February 7 AppDev call about Visual Studio Mobile Center     Download the Cloud App Dev Playbook     Earn the Microsoft Application Development competency