Intro:

For most developers, it's not enough to be seen only on the Apple Store.

Statistics show that the Google Play store is the most popular Android app, with over 70 million unique users in July 2014 alone.

You'll get the maximum exposure by distributing your app on the Play store, but first you need to get the apps ready, test them, and prepare your promotional materials.

Let's get you started and learning how to publish an app on Google Play.

Getting Started:

Understand Google Play policies and agreements

To ensure your App is approved and succeeds through the submitting process you must first familiarize yourself with the policies you accepted when registering. Failing to do so can lead to suspension of your apps and even termination of your developer account.

You need to make sure that all of these areas are intact before you submit your app to the Play Store:

(Source: developer.android.com)

Determine your content rating

When submitting an app on Google Play you are required to set a content rating which informs users of its maturity level. The available ratings are:

  • Everyone
  • Low maturity
  • Medium maturity
  • High maturity

You can read out about the rating system or take a questionnaire to determine which is the right category for you. 

The content rating you select will affect the app’s distribution to users. To set or change the rating for your app:

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console
  2. Click “All applications”
  3. Select an app
  4. On the left menu, click Store Listing
  5. Under “Categorization”, select the appropriate rating from the Content rating drop-down
  6. Near the top of the page, click Save draft (new apps) or Submit update (existing apps)

(Sources: developer.android.comsupport.google.com)

Determine country distribution

You can control what countries and territories your app is distributed to. Selecting all available countries and territories will ensure the widest reach and largest potential customer base. However, factors like business needs, app requirements and launch dependencies might serve as a reason to exclude one or more countries from your list.

It's important to determine country distribution early, because it can affect:

  • The need for localized resources in the app
  • The need for a localized app description in the Developer Console
  • Legal requirements for the app that may be specific to certain countries
  • Time zone support, local pricing, and so on

You should read the localization guide to ensure all the key steps and considerations are addressed during the localization process. You should also check out a guide for supported locations for distribution to Google Play users.

(Sources: developer.android.com)

Confirm overall size

The size of your app can affect both – its design and how it’s published on Google Play. The maximum size for APK that can be published is 50MB. For apps that exceed the size or secondary downloads you can use APK Expansion Files which Google Play will host for free. You can use up to two APK Expansion Files, each up to 2GB size for each APK.

To minimize the size of your app binary, make sure that you run the Proguard tool or similar obfuscatory on your code when building your release-ready APK.

(Sources: developer.android.com)​

Confirm screen compatibility

Confirm that the app runs properly and looks good on the range of screen sizes and pixel densities that you want to support Android platform versions are defined by API level.

Confirm the minimum version that your app is compatible with <minSdkVersion> - it will affect its distribution to Android devices once it’s published.

See the Device Dashboard charts to get a better understanding of the current device penetration of Android platform versions and screen sizes across all Android devices.

(Sources: developer.android.com)

Prices and fees:

Decide on free or priced app

On Google Play you can publish apps as free or priced. Paid apps can be downloaded by users who are in a country supporting paid downloads and have registered a form of payment in Google Play, whereas free to download apps can be downloaded by any Android user.

It is important you decide on whether your app is going to be free or not, because you cannot change a free app to priced once it’s published. Even if you originally publish your app as priced and then change it to free, you can’t change it back to priced.

You can also sell in-app products and subscriptions regardless of whether you decide on a free or priced app.

For priced apps, in-app products and subscriptions you will need to set up a Google payments merchant account before you can publish.

(Sources: developer.android.com & support.andromo.com & techcrunch.com & innovationjockeys.net)

Consider In-app Billing or Android Pay

In-app Billing lets you sell digital content in your applications. You can use the service to sell downloadable content such as media files and photos, or virtual content such as game levels, potions and gear. You can decide on selling one-time purchases and subscriptions from inside your app, which can help monetize your app over its installed lifetime.

To use In-app Billing or Android Pay, you need to make changes to your app binary, so you will need to complete and test your implementation before creating your ready for release APK.

(Source: developer.android.com)

Set prices for your products

For priced apps or in-app additions Google Play lets you set prices for your products in various currencies. You can adjust your price according to the market conditions and exchange rates by setting the prices individually in each currency.

Before you publish, consider how you’ll price your products and what your prices will be in various currencies. Later, you can set prices in all available currencies through the Developer Console.

Start Localization:

Identify Languages

When localizing your app it is crucial to identify the languages spoken. It is especially important for countries with large market opportunity but no widely used international languages (such as English).

If a country speaks more than one language you should decide whether to target one or more languages. A logical step would be to start with the major regional language and add more languages as the user base grows.

After identifying the language, you can focus on translation, testing and marketing for the selected country. It is advised that you let native speakers of the country review your localized apps by beta testing with regional users.

(Source: developer.android.com)

Use Google Play app translator

You can purchase Google Play App Translation Services to help you quickly translate your app. Look for third-party vendors who are pre-qualified by Google in the Developer Console for high-quality translation at competitive prices.

Upload the strings you want translated, select the languages you want translating into and select your translation vendor based on time and price. You will receive a confirmation email from your vendor after the purchase.

When working with a vendor you will need to work directly with them to manage the translation process and resolve any support issues.

(Source: developer.android.com)

Use appropriate measurements

Entities like dates, times, numbers, currencies, temperature settings can vary by location so make sure you use the system-provided formats rather than app-specific formats. You should also keep in mind that not all locales use the same thousands and decimal separator or percent sign.

If you are unsure about the measurements in each area use DateUtils and DateFormat for dates; String.format() or DecimalFormat for numbers and currency; PhoneNumberUtils for phone numbers; and others.

(Source: developer.android.com)

Look for localization issues

Once the translating is done use each test device to set the language or locale in Settings. Install and launch the app and navigate through all of the UI flows, dialogs and user interactions. Look for:

  • Clipped text, or text that overlaps the edge of UI elements or the screen
  • Poor line wrapping
  • Incorrect word breaks or punctuation
  • Incorrect alphabetical sorting
  • Incorrect layout direction or text direction
  • Untranslated text — if your default strings are displayed instead of translated strings, then you may have overlooked those strings for translation or marked the resources directory with an incorrect language qualifier

For cases where your strings have expanded in translation and no longer fit your layouts, it's suggested you try to simplify your default text, simplify your translated text, or adjust your default layouts.

(Source: developer.android.com)

Prepare for release:

Configure app for release

Remove Log calls and the android:debuggable attribute from your manifest file. Provide values for the android:versionCode and android:versionName attributes located in the <manifest> element.

You might want to configure several other settings to ensure you meet Google Play requirements and accommodate the method you’re using to release your application.

(Source: developer.android.com & adamwadeharris.com)

Build and upload release-ready APK

Build a release-ready version of the app and upload APKs to your Developer Console to distribute it to users. This process is the same for all apps, regardless of how they are distributed. The steps include:

  • Code cleanup
  • Optimization
  • Building and signing with release key
  • Final testing

If necessary you can replace an APK with a more recent version before publishing.

Test for necessary updates

Before distributing your app you should test the release version on at least one handset and one tablet device. It will help your ensure that all application resources like multimedia files, graphics and sound are included with your application or staged on the proper production servers.

If your app depends on external server or services, you should ensure their security and readiness of production.

(Source: developer.android.com)

Promote:

Prepare promotional material

Google play offers a variety of ways to promote your app and engage with users on your listing page. Use material like:

  • Colorful graphics
  • Screenshots
  • Videos

Take advantage of all your product detail page can offer to make your app as compelling to users as possible. Upload the material to the Developer Console until the page is complete.

When posting videos remeber that you need to first upload it on YouTube. Google Play recommends the videos to be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long.

Here's how you can manage your app’s graphic assets on the Developer Console:

  1. Sign in to yourGoogle Play Developer Console
  2. Click All Applications
  3. Select an app
  4. On the left menu, click Store Listing
  5. Under "Graphic assets", you can upload your images and add a YouTube video

Find out more about featured image do’s and dont’s by checking out the guidelines.

(Sources: developer.android.com & support.google.com & android-developer.blogspot.com & forumone.com)

Create badges for linking

Google Play Badge generator is a quick way to create badges to link users to your products from web pages, ads, reviews. It is an officially branded way of promoting your app to Android users. You can also use link formats to link you directly to your store listing page.

To ensure you get the best promotion for your app learn more about:

(Source: developer.android.com)

Beta:

Release beta

When launching a new app it is always valuable to get feedback from users. Distribute a pre-release version of your app to users and provide easy means by which they can provide feedback and report bugs.

You can set up a beta program for your app by signing in to your Developer Console and uploading your APKs. Set up groups for alpha and beta testing of your app. Start with a small group of alpha testers, then move on to a larger group of beta testers.

Alpha and beta testers can’t leave reviews or ratings on your app so there is not risk to your app’s ratings on Google Play. A way to get feedback would be setting up a Google Forum or Google+.

Use the feedback to improve your UI, translations and store listing to ensure a great experience for users.

(Source: developer.android.com & innovationjockeys.net)

Complete store listing

After setting your app’s geographic targeting, don’t forget to add your localized store listing, promotional graphics and screenshot captions for all the languages you support.

Include screenshots of the app running on all the devices it is created for. If your app is running on tablets highlight your apps support for it in the app decription, release notes, promotional campaigns and on any other platform you use. 

Remember to select a category for your app:

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console
  2. Select an app
  3. On the left menu, click Store Listing
  4. Scroll down to "Categorization" and click the drop-down next to "Application type."
  5. Select a type
  6. Click the drop-down next to "Category."
  7. Select a category
  8. Near the top of the page, click Save draft (new apps) or Submit update (existing apps)

It may take up to 24 hours before the changes can be seen on your app’s page on Google Play.

If you are unsure which option to pick you can refer to the list of categories for apps and games.

(Sources: developer.android.com & support.google.com)

Publish:

Check your app

Once you think you are ready to publish your app you should check some last minute details to ensure everything is in order. Pay close attention to:

  • Your developer profile (check if the information is correct and your profile is linked to the proper Google payments merchant account)
  • If you have the right version of the app uploaded
  • Your store listing (see if all graphic assets, screenshots, videos, localized descriptions are ready)
  • Pricing (including appropriate currency)
  • Links and email address
  • Policies (check if your app is not breaking any rules)

If your are unsure about some of the steps you can refer to the Google Play Developer Program Policies.

(Sources: developer.android.com & play.google.com)

Publish

To publish your app you have to go to your Developer Console and press the publishing button. It may take a few hours before your app appears on Google Play and becomes available to users.

Once your app is published users will be able to download it, browse it, search for it and it will be linking from your promotional campaigns.

Support users after launch

It’s crucial to support your customers after you publish your app. Users are more likely to be engaged with our app, recommend it, offer better feedbacks and write positive reviews if you provide prompt answers and solutions to your clients.

One way to keep in touch with your users and offer support is by providing a support email address on your store listing page. You can also provide support over forums, mailing lists or Google+ page.

You can learn more about Google Play policies on supporting your customers by reading the manual.

(Source: developer.android.com & techcrunch.com)

Keep your app up to date

Look out for recurring bugs and issues of your app by checking your ratings and reviews frequently. Pay attention to new Android platform version launches to see if compatibility settings need updates.

Review your refund policies – having generous refund policies ensure higher customer satisfaction and it means people will buy more in the future.

Fix the issues with your app, publish updates and keep the quality of the app up to standards. Provide a summary of the changes made after each update.

Popular in-app analytics tools like Flurry, App Annie and Google Mobile App Analytics require you to implement an SDK, so make sure you do this before preparing your final build.

(Source: developer.android.com & techcrunch.com)

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