Publishing your first app in the Play Store: what you need to know

May 20, 2014
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google-play-store

The easiest way to distribute an Android app is via the Google Play store. It isn’t the only distribution method, but it is the simplest way to reach millions of potential users. Publishing your first app in the Play Store isn’t hard, with a few tips and pointers you can have your app ready for download in next to no time.

Google has a one time $25 registration fee which you need to pay before you can upload an app.

The starting point is the Google Play Developer Console. It is Google’s dedicated dashboard for developers that lets you manage your apps in the Play Store. Google has a one time $25 registration fee which you need to pay before you can upload an app. Google says it encourages higher quality products, i.e. less SPAM. If you don’t like the idea then it helps to look at Apple’s and Microsoft’s policies for their app stores. Apple charges $99 per year. Microsoft charges between $12 and $99 per year, depending on the account type.

google-play-dev-console

You also need to be in a supported country to distribute apps. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are on Google’s approved list, but countries like New Zealand and Singapore aren’t. Also, some of the recent additions to the European Union like Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia don’t make it onto Google’s list.

After you have signed up and payed the registration fee, you need to complete your account details, including your Developer Name – the name that is displayed on the Google Play store. Once that is all done you might need to wait a little as officially it can take up to 48 hours for your Google Play Developer registration to be fully processed.

At this point it is probably worth taking a look at the Google Play Apps Policy Center and the Android Developer Help Center to avoid uploading content which is in violation of the Google Play terms and conditions. Any apps which violate the terms and conditions will be suspended from the store and repeated violations can result in the termination of your developer account. That probably sounds worse than it actually is. If you are creating original and well behaved apps then you don’t really have to worry.

google-play-maturity-rating

Before uploading your app to the Play Store you need to prepare a few things. One of the questions you need to answer during the publishing process is about the maturity rating of your app. Google has four rating levels: Everyone, Low maturity, Medium maturity and High maturity. Google has a guide to help you rate your app content for Google Play. Basically if your app includes references to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, or violence it will need to carry one of the higher maturity ratings. Apps with mild cartoon violence need to carry the Low Maturity rating as a minimum.

The Play Store listing is probably one of the most important elements for promoting your app.

You also need to watch the final size of your app. Google only allows apps of 50MB or less to be published as a single APK file. Any apps which exceed that size need to use Android’s APK Expansion Files API. With it you can build your app so that it downloads up to an additional 4GB from Google’s servers. On most devices, Google Play downloads the extra data at the same time as the app. In some cases, however, the app must download the files from Google Play when it starts.

The Play Store listing is probably one of the most important elements for promoting your app. A poor Play Store listing will result in few downloads and probably negative comments. Your Play Store listing needs to be engaging, informative and friendly. To help attract users, Google lets you supply a variety of promotional graphics, videos and screenshots that will appear on the apps listing on the Play Store. Since these graphic are a key part of a successful Play Store listing, Google says that “you should consider having a professional produce them for you.”

The feature graphic needs to be bold, vivid, fun and enticing.

The first graphics you need are the screenshots. You need to provide at least two phone screenshots. However for best results you should upload 8 screenshots (the most allowed by Google). You should also upload screen shots of your app running on a 7-inch tablet and on a 10-inch tablet. Google’s instructions say that “for your app to be showcased in the ‘Designed for tablets’ list in the Play Store, you need to upload at least one 7-inch and one 10-inch screenshot.”

Along with the screenshots you will need to prepare a Hi-res icon (512 x 512), a Feature graphic (1024 x 500) and a Promo graphic (180 x 120). The last two are marked as optional, but you really should consider them as mandatory. Without a Feature image your app can’t be featured anywhere within Google Play.

Example of a good featured image.

Example of a good featured image.

The feature graphic needs to be bold, vivid, fun and enticing. It should use colors which stand out on plain backgrounds and it should promote your brand. It shouldn’t be text heavy and neither should it be overloaded with graphic details. Anything more than the app name and maybe a few descriptive words will be lost on smaller screens.

Setting the price to free is permanent, you can't change it back to paid once it has been published.

The final part of the Play Store listing is to set the price of your app and in which countries it should be distributed. If the app is free then you simply mark it as free. However it is worth noting that setting the price to free is permanent, you can’t change it back to paid once it has been published.

For paid apps you need to set the price. You can just set the price in USD and then let Google calculate the prices for each of the local markets, or you can set prices individually for the different currencies. The latter option gives you the flexibility to adjust the local prices according to market conditions and exchange rates.

Once you are happy with your Play Store listing you can upload the APK file and click the Publish button. It takes a few hours for the app to appear. The publication process is automatic and it isn’t too long before your app becomes available for download.

If you are uploading your first Android app then the Android Authority team wants to wish you every success!

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