Android Application Publication

Play Store

Preparing your app for release

Preparing your application for release is a multi-step process that involves the following tasks:

  • Configuring your application for release.

    At a minimum you need to remove Log calls and remove the android:debuggable attribute from your manifest file. You should also provide values for the android:versionCode and android:versionName attributes, which are located in the <manifest> element. You may also have to configure several other settings to meet Google Play requirements or accommodate whatever method you're using to release your application.

    If you are using Gradle build files, you can use the release build type to set your build settings for the published version of your app.

  • Building and signing a release version of your application.

    You can use the Gradle build files with the release build type to build and sign a release version of your application. See Building and Running from Android Studio.

  • Testing the release version of your application.

    Before you distribute your application, you should thoroughly test the release version on at least one target handset device and one target tablet device.

  • Updating application resources for release.

    You need to be sure that all application resources such as multimedia files and graphics are updated and included with your application or staged on the proper production servers.

  • Preparing remote servers and services that your application depends on.

    If your application depends on external servers or services, you need to be sure they are secure and production ready.

You may have to perform several other tasks as part of the preparation process. For example, you will need to get a private key for signing your application. You will also need to create an icon for your application, and you may want to prepare an End User License Agreement (EULA) to protect your person, organization, and intellectual property.

When you are finished preparing your application for release you will have a signed .apk file that you can distribute to users.

To learn how to prepare your application for release, see Preparing for Release in the Dev Guide. This topic provides step-by-step instructions for configuring and building a release version of your application.

Releasing your app to users

You can release your Android applications several ways. Usually, you release applications through an application marketplace such as Google Play, but you can also release applications on your own website or by sending an application directly to a user.

Releasing through an app marketplace

If you want to distribute your apps to the broadest possible audience, releasing through an app marketplace such as Google Play is ideal.

Google Play is the premier marketplace for Android apps and is particularly useful if you want to distribute your applications to a large global audience. However, you can distribute your apps through any app marketplace you want or you can use multiple marketplaces.

Releasing your apps on Google Play

Google Play is a robust publishing platform that helps you publicize, sell, and distribute your Android applications to users around the world. When you release your applications through Google Play you have access to a suite of developer tools that let you analyze your sales, identify market trends, and control who your applications are being distributed to. You also have access to several revenue-enhancing features such as in-app billing and application licensing. The rich array of tools and features, coupled with numerous end-user community features, makes Google Play the premier marketplace for selling and buying Android applications.

Releasing your application on Google Play is a simple process that involves three basic steps:

  • Preparing promotional materials.

    To fully leverage the marketing and publicity capabilities of Google Play, you need to create promotional materials for your application, such as screenshots, videos, graphics, and promotional text.

  • Configuring options and uploading assets.

    Google Play lets you target your application to a worldwide pool of users and devices. By configuring various Google Play settings, you can choose the countries you want to reach, the listing languages you want to use, and the price you want to charge in each country. You can also configure listing details such as the application type, category, and content rating. When you are done configuring options you can upload your promotional materials and your application as a draft (unpublished) application.

  • Publishing the release version of your application.

    If you are satisfied that your publishing settings are correctly configured and your uploaded application is ready to be released to the public, you can simply click Publish in the Play Console and within minutes your application will be live and available for download around the world.

For more information, see Google Play.

Releasing through a website

If you do not want to release your app on a marketplace like Google Play, you can make the app available for download on your own website or server, including on a private or enterprise server. To do this, you must first prepare your application for release in the normal way. Then all you need to do is host the release-ready APK file on your website and provide a download link to users.

When users browse to the download link from their Android-powered devices, the file is downloaded and Android system automatically starts installing it on the device. However, the installation process will start automatically only if the user has configured their Settings to allow the installation of apps from unknown sources.

Although it is relatively easy to release your application on your own website, it can be inefficient. For example, if you want to monetize your application you will have to process and track all financial transactions yourself and you will not be able to use Google Play's In-app Billing service to sell in-app products. In addition, you will not be able to use the Licensing service to help prevent unauthorized installation and use of your application.

User opt-in for unknown apps and sources

Android protects users from inadvertent download and install of apps from locations other than a first-party app store, such as Google Play, which is trusted. Android blocks such installs until the user opts into allowing the installation of apps from other sources. The opt-in process depends on the version of Android running on the user's device:

Screenshot showing the settings screen for accepting install of
       unknown apps from different sources.

Figure 1. The Install unknown apps system settings screen, where users grant permission for a particular source to install unknown apps.

  • On devices running Android 8.0 (API level 26) and higher, users must navigate to the Install unknown apps system settings screen to enable app installations from a particular source.
  • On devices running Android 7.1.1 (API level 25) and lower, users must either enable the Unknown sources system setting or allow a single installation of an unknown app.

Install unknown apps

On devices running Android 8.0 (API level 26) and higher, users must grant permission to install apps from a source that isn't a first-party app store. To do so, they must enable the Allow app installs setting for that source within the Install unknown apps system settings screen. Figure 1 illustrates this process.

Note: Users can change this setting for a particular source at any time. Therefore, a source that installs unknown apps should always call canRequestPackageInstalls() to check whether the user has granted that source permission to install unknown apps. If this method returns false, the source should prompt the user to re-enable the Allow app installs setting for that source.

 

Unknown sources

Screenshot showing the setting for accepting download and install of
       apps from unknown sources.

Figure 2. The Unknown sources setting, which determines whether users can install apps that aren't downloaded from Google Play.

In order for users to allow the installation of apps from non-first-party sources on devices running Android 7.1.1 (API level 25) and lower, they should enable the Unknown sources setting in Settings > Security, as shown in Figure 2.

Note: When users attempt to install an unknown app on a device running Android 7.1.1 (API level 25) or lower, the system sometimes shows a dialog that asks the user whether they want to allow only one particular unknown app to be installed. In almost all cases, users should allow only one unknown app installation at a time if the option is available to them.

In either case, users need to make this configuration change before they can download and install unknown apps onto their devices.

Note: Some network providers do not allow users to install apps from unknown sources.

 

Prepare for release

To prepare your application for release, you need to configure, build, and test a release version of your application. The configuration tasks are straightforward, involving basic code cleanup and code modification tasks that help optimize your application. The build process is similar to the debug build process and can be done using JDK and Android SDK tools. The testing tasks serve as a final check, ensuring that your application performs as expected under real-world conditions. When you are finished preparing your application for release you have a signed APK file, which you can distribute directly to users or distribute through an application marketplace such as Google Play.

This document summarizes the main tasks you need to perform to prepare your application for release. The tasks that are described in this document apply to all Android applications regardless how they are released or distributed to users. If you are releasing your application through Google Play, you should also read the Google Play launch checklist.

Note: As a best practice, your application should meet all of your release criteria for functionality, performance, and stability before you perform the tasks outlined in this document.

Shows how the preparation process fits into the development process

Figure 1. Preparing for release is a required development task and is the first step in the publishing process.

Introduction

To release your application to users you need to create a release-ready package that users can install and run on their Android-powered devices. The release-ready package contains the same components as the debug APK file — compiled source code, resources, manifest file, and so on — and it is built using the same build tools. However, unlike the debug APK file, the release-ready APK file is signed with your own certificate and it is optimized with the zipalign tool.

Shows the five tasks you perform to prepare your app for release

Figure 2. You perform five main tasks to prepare your application for release.

The signing and optimization tasks are usually seamless if you are building your application with Android Studio. For example, you can use Android Studio with the Gradle build files to compile, sign, and optimize your application all at once. You can also configure the Gradle build files to do the same when you build from the command line. For more details about using the Gradle build files, see the Build System guide.

To prepare your application for release you typically perform five main tasks (see figure 2). Each main task may include one or more smaller tasks depending on how you are releasing your application. For example, if you are releasing your application through Google Play you may want to add special filtering rules to your manifest while you are configuring your application for release. Similarly, to meet Google Play publishing guidelines you may have to prepare screenshots and create promotional text while you are gathering materials for release.

You usually perform the tasks listed in figure 2 after you have throroughly debugged and tested your application. The Android SDK contains several tools to help you test and debug your Android applications. For more information, see the Debugging and Testing sections in the Dev Guide.

Gathering materials and resources

To begin preparing your application for release you need to gather several supporting items. At a minimum this includes cryptographic keys for signing your application and an application icon. You might also want to include an end-user license agreement.

Cryptographic keys

The Android system requires that each installed application be digitally signed with a certificate that is owned by the application's developer (that is, a certificate for which the developer holds the private key). The Android system uses the certificate as a means of identifying the author of an application and establishing trust relationships between applications. The certificate that you use for signing does not need to be signed by a certificate authority; the Android system allows you to sign your applications with a self-signed certificate. To learn about certificate requirements, see Signing Your Applications.

Important: Your application must be signed with a cryptographic key whose validity period ends after 22 October 2033.

You may also have to obtain other release keys if your application accesses a service or uses a third-party library that requires you to use a key that is based on your private key.

Application icon

Be sure you have an application icon and that it meets the recommended icon guidelines. Your application's icon helps users identify your application on a device's Home screen and in the Launcher window. It also appears in Manage Applications, My Downloads, and elsewhere. In addition, publishing services such as Google Play display your icon to users.

Note: If you are releasing your application on Google Play, you need to create a high resolution version of your icon. See Graphic Assets for your Application for more information.

End-user license agreement

Consider preparing an End User License Agreement (EULA) for your application. A EULA can help protect your person, organization, and intellectual property, and we recommend that you provide one with your application.

Miscellaneous materials

You might also have to prepare promotional and marketing materials to publicize your application. For example, if you are releasing your application on Google Play you will need to prepare some promotional text and you will need to create screenshots of your application. For more information, see Graphic Assets for your Application

Configuring Your application for release

After you gather all of your supporting materials you can start configuring your application for release. This section provides a summary of the configuration changes we recommend that you make to your source code, resource files, and application manifest prior to releasing your application. Although most of the configuration changes listed in this section are optional, they are considered good coding practices and we encourage you to implement them. In some cases, you may have already made these configuration changes as part of your development process.

Choose a good package name

Make sure you choose a package name that is suitable over the life of your application. You cannot change the package name after you distribute your application to users. You can set the package name in application's manifest file. For more information, see the package attribute documentation.

Turn off logging and debugging

Make sure you deactivate logging and disable the debugging option before you build your application for release. You can deactivate logging by removing calls to Log methods in your source files. You can disable debugging by removing the android:debuggable attribute from the <application> tag in your manifest file, or by setting the android:debuggable attribute to false in your manifest file. Also, remove any log files or static test files that were created in your project.

Also, you should remove all Debug tracing calls that you added to your code, such as startMethodTracing() and stopMethodTracing() method calls.

Important: Ensure that you disable debugging for your app if using WebView to display paid for content or if using JavaScript interfaces, since debugging allows users to inject scripts and extract content using Chrome DevTools. To disable debugging, use the WebView.setWebContentsDebuggingEnabled() method.

Clean up your project directories

Clean up your project and make sure it conforms to the directory structure described in Android Projects. Leaving stray or orphaned files in your project can prevent your application from compiling and cause your application to behave unpredictably. At a minimum you should do the following cleanup tasks:

  • Review the contents of your jni/lib/, and src/ directories. The jni/ directory should contain only source files associated with the Android NDK, such as .c.cpp.h, and .mk files. The lib/ directory should contain only third-party library files or private library files, including prebuilt shared and static libraries (for example, .so files). The src/ directory should contain only the source files for your application (.java and .aidl files). The src/ directory should not contain any .jar files.
  • Check your project for private or proprietary data files that your application does not use and remove them. For example, look in your project's res/ directory for old drawable files, layout files, and values files that you are no longer using and delete them.
  • Check your lib/ directory for test libraries and remove them if they are no longer being used by your application.
  • Review the contents of your assets/ directory and your res/raw/ directory for raw asset files and static files that you need to update or remove prior to release.

Review and update your manifest and Gradle build settings

Verify that the following manifest and build files items are set correctly:

  • <uses-permission> element

    You should specify only those permissions that are relevant and required for your application.

  • android:icon and android:label attributes

    You must specify values for these attributes, which are located in the <application> element.

  • android:versionCode and android:versionName attributes.

    We recommend that you specify values for these attributes, which are located in the <manifest> element. For more information see Versioning your Application.

There are several additional manifest or build file elements that you can set if you are releasing your application on Google Play. For example, the android:minSdkVersion and android:targetSdkVersion attributes, which are located in the <uses-sdk> element. For more information about these and other Google Play settings, see Filters on Google Play.

Address compatibility issues

Android provides several tools and techniques to make your application compatible with a wide range of devices. To make your application available to the largest number of users, consider doing the following:

  • Add support for multiple screen configurations

    Make sure you meet the best practices for supporting multiple screens. By supporting multiple screen configurations you can create an application that functions properly and looks good on any of the screen sizes supported by Android.

  • Optimize your application for Android tablet devices.

    If your application is designed for devices older than Android 3.0, make it compatible with Android 3.0 devices by following the guidelines and best practices described in Optimizing Apps for Android 3.0 .

  • Consider using the Support Library

    If your application is designed for devices running Android 3.x, make your application compatible with older versions of Android by adding the Support Library to your application project. The Support Library provides static support libraries that you can add to your Android application, which enables you to use APIs that are either not available on older platform versions or use utility APIs that are not part of the framework APIs.

Update URLs for servers and services

If your application accesses remote servers or services, make sure you are using the production URL or path for the server or service and not a test URL or path.

Implement licensing (if you are releasing on Google Play)

If you are releasing a paid application through Google Play, consider adding support for Google Play Licensing. Licensing lets you control access to your application based on whether the current user has purchased it. Using Google Play Licensing is optional even if you are releasing your app through Google Play.

For more information about Google Play Licensing Service and how to use it in your application, see Application Licensing.

Building Your application for release

After you finish configuring your application you can build it into a release-ready APK file that is signed and optimized. The JDK includes the tools for signing the APK file (Keytool and Jarsigner); the Android SDK includes the tools for compiling and optimizing the APK file. If you are using Android Studio or you are using the Gradle build system from the command line, you can automate the entire build process. For more information about configuring Gradle builds, see Configuring Gradle Builds.

Building with Android Studio

You can use the Gradle build system, integrated with Android Studio to build a release-ready APK file that is signed with your private key and optimized. To learn how to setup and run builds from Android Studio, see Building and Running from Android Studio.

The build process assumes that you have a certificate and private key suitable for signing your application. If you do not have a suitable certificate and private key, Android Studio can help you generate one. For more information about the signing process, see Signing Your Applications.

Preparing external servers and resources

If your application relies on a remote server, make sure the server is secure and that it is configured for production use. This is particularly important if you are implementing in-app billing in your application and you are performing the signature verification step on a remote server.

Also, if your application fetches content from a remote server or a real-time service (such as a content feed), be sure the content you are providing is up to date and production-ready.

Testing your application for release

Testing the release version of your application helps ensure that your application runs properly under realistic device and network conditions. Ideally, you should test your application on at least one handset-sized device and one tablet-sized device to verify that your user interface elements are sized correctly and that your application's performance and battery efficiency are acceptable.

As a starting point for testing, see What to Test. This article provides a summary of common Android situations that you should consider when you are testing. When you are done testing and you are satisfied that the release version of your application behaves correctly, you can release your application to users. For more information, see Releasing Your Application to Users. If you are publishing your application on Google Play, see Launch Checklist for Google Play.

 

 

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