An App Owner’s Guide To Getting Your App Published On the Play Store:

By Sara Mehdi on 8th July, 2021
More than 3 million mobile applications are currently hosted on the Google Play Store, certainly making it the largest platform for android based applications and their distribution. What does this mean? If you are an app owner, getting your application on the android store is the final step to getting your app out in the market.
The app development process is incomplete without getting your application published on the Play Store. Not only is it crucial, but it determines the success of your application.
When you’re launching an application, all kinds of questions cross your mind. Will your app be submitted? Will your app get through approvals and get published? Will people actually install and use it? All of these are genuine concerns and sometimes can prove to be overwhelming, especially if you are getting your app published for the first time. It’s an unknown situation and having a little help at times like these, is super beneficial.
In this article, we are only going to be focusing on the steps involved to getting your app published on the Google Play Store. If you are interested to learn how to go about doing the same on the iOS App Store, click here.
Step #1 - A Final Review Before Submission
Getting your app published on the Google Play Store involves a certain number of steps. However, before you get the ball rolling, you need to make sure that your app is ready to be submitted. You need to make sure that your app is not only technically ready, but also meeting all the legal requirements.
What is the Technical Prerequisite?
Target API Level - According to the requirements given by Google, new applications that are to be submitted to the Play Store have to meet the required target API Level. The target API level, also known as the SDK version, is a number that represents the latest android version the app is designed to.
If the android version of a user’s device is newer than the app version, then some backward compatibility features may be needed. For any subsequent versions, you may be expected to implement additional security protocols like additional permissions and restrictions. Let’s clear that with an example:
If an action within the application was not permission protected before, but becomes protected from a certain API onwards, the writer who wrote the code would have no way of knowing that while working on the development of the application.
If an action within the application was not permission protected before, but becomes protected from a certain API onwards, the writer who wrote the code would have no way of knowing that while working on the development of the application. Apps that have already been published, are expected to not crash/break after such changes are made. While the newer apps and versions are expected to be calibrated according to the latest standards and guidelines provided.
Currently the expected target API Level for all new apps is 29 (Android P) and is expected to be moved up to 30 (Android R) by August. App developers have to keep in mind that moving the target API level up is not just a numeric increase in the configuration but also a time-consuming process, especially when you already have a codebase. These changes not only affect the source code of the application, but also affect any third-party integrations involved. Therefore, it is recommended to maintain the app throughout its cycle in order to avoid any such technical debt.
App Bundles - Starting from August of this year (2021), all new apps submitted to the Google Play Store are expected to use the App Bundle (AAB). This particular format is only going to be used for publishing on the Play Store.
What this basically means is that its backend will generate an installable version dedicated to the user device and its specifications. All non-matching assets will not be shipped in the download and thus result in a smaller app size, and increased download speed.
Both APK files and APK Expansion files (OBB) won’t be accepted and will be superseded by Play Asset delivery. Most of the applications will just be adopted to AAB format instead of the APK. The only exception would be when the size limits exceed 150 MB and the APK expansion files are used.
What Are The Legal Terms?
In order for your app to be legally distributed by the Google Play Store, your app will have to comply with the terms of service provided by Google and the country's law.
You will also have to look at the information provided at the Developer Policy Centre in order to learn about topics like content restriction, malware, and intellectual property.
In addition, the app also has to be compliant with the US Export Law because the Google Play Store is based and hosted in the United States and in order for the app to be distributed to users outside the country, it has to be exported. This specification applies even when your app is not available for users in the United States.
You also have to keep in mind that the app also has to be compliant with the local security and privacy laws. The most prominent of which are the GDPR compliance which apply to the EU/EEA countries.
Step #2 - Meta Data of Your Application
If you are reading this, we can assume that your app is now technically and legally sound, and is therefore, eligible to be published on the Google Play Store. Now let’s begin the process of publishing your application.
Finalizing App Details - When you’re publishing an application, the listing comprises of 3 main essentials:
This is an important part of the marketing effort of your application as your app listing is going to provide the first impression to a user, when they are looking to download. However, keep in mind that any listing you create also has to follow the metadata requirements provided by Google.
Apart from this, a few important things that you should keep in mind while creating a listing are: to avoid creating visuals that are distracting, and to never use copyrighted or plagiarized content in your listing.
For marketing purposes, you should not forget about SEO. If you want users to find your application through search, then you would have to particularly careful while naming the application and use certain keywords in the app listing itself to have a better chance of being found when a user searches for them.
Pricing - Is your app going to be free or paid? You have to answer this question right at the start when you’re listing the app on the Play Store. You may be able to change these settings from paid to free at any later point, however, it’s not possible the other way around.
Once the application is listed as free, it’s not possible to put a price on it at later stages. But keep in mind that in-app purchases are still allowed for free applications as well. However, receiving payments from users may not be allowed in some countries. Also keep in mind when you’re pricing an application, the different exchange rates have to be accounted for, and therefore it is recommended to use the $US as the base of all conversions.
Graphic Assets - When you’re submitting a listing for any application, you will be required to provide an app icon and the in-demo screenshots of the application. You will also have the option to include a link to YouTube for a video. The particular video can be an explainer type which highlighted the USP’s and the walk through of the features. It also, like any other assets, has to be compliant with the developer policies and not be in violation of any copyright infringement claims.
All the assets you provide will be used to promote the application. Your app will be promoted even outside of Google by default. However, you can change this by going into the settings an opting out of the external promotions.
App Icon - An app icon is usually the one that you see while launching the application. However, the only difference is that when you’re submitting an icon for the app listing, a higher resolution (512x512) is needed.
Feature Image - A featured image is the one that you see in different places on the Play Store. Usually a feature image is designed to represent the key points of your app and has to be in the dimensions 1024 x 500.
Screenshot Images - When submitting an app listing, you are required to provide at least 2 screenshots of the UI where as you can upload up to 8 images. Usually, app owners use this part of the listing to show the basic UI and the adaptability with various devices.
Promo Video - Although uploading a promo video is optional, it is recommended to create one. This part of the listing can be used to highlight the unique features of your application, address the various pain points, and give an overall insight into the look and feel of the application.
Step #3 - What Is The Content Policy?
In order to submit an application to the Google Play Store, there is information that is needed by the platform through the content you put in your application.
Privacy Policy - When you’re submitting your application to the Play Store, local laws require that your app must have a privacy policy. In convention, privacy policies are usually written by lawyers, however, Google does provide you with their respective guidelines.
A typical privacy policy will cover information regarding your treatment of sensitive information, protection and sharing of data. This information is required specially when your target audience is under the age of 13 or below.
In App Advertising - If your App is going to have any kind of advertising, you are required to declare it beforehand. Please note that this covers all kinds of advertising and not just banner ads. Any kind of sponsored activity also has to be included.
Accessibility and Restrictions - While submitting your app for reviewers, you have to specify if any features or parts of your app are restricted because of geo-location or there are any features that require signing up. Perhaps looking at preparing your app for review can help you understand the requirements.
Content Rating - Any content on your application should have an IARC rating. This process will require you to fill out a questionnaire and once you do that, you will get a rating. This rating is deemed important as it helps determine whether your app is appropriate for the use of children on their own.
Target Audience - When you are submitting your application to be pushed live on the Play Store, it is required for you to specify the age group you are going to be targeting. In general, the lower the age group, the more requirements you need to fulfil, especially in the case of children under the age of 13.
News Policy - One of the last sections that you need to fill out is to specify if your app is a news publishing app or not. And if so, there are some additional requirements that your app needs to be compliant with.
Step #4 – Specifying Your Target Audiences
When you are submitting your app for review, there are certain requirements that you have to take care of. These requirements may not be from the platform itself but location-based.
In general, some kinds of apps are not allowed to function in certain areas/locations/countries. So, you have to proactively limit the availability of your application in those areas. Some of these are:
  • Country Restrictions – There may be some kind of restrictions based on the legal and regional rules.
  • Device Restrictions – Sometimes an app may, in theory, be workable. But there can be hardware restrictions that may limit the compatibility and functionality of the application.
  • Payment Settings – If your intention is to allow users to buy your app or perform in-app purchases then you will need to set up a payment profile.
Step #5 – Getting the Technical Settings Right
For publishing your app on the Google Play Store, you are required to change some technical settings. Let’s go over them:
Application ID – All apps published on the Play Store must have a unique identifier. Once an app is uploaded a unique ID is reserved for the app and cannot be changed at a later stage.
Signing – For any app to me made downloadable/installable, it needs to be signed. Although a great detail can be covered. The simplest way to do that currently is to use singing by Google Play.
Rounding Things Up Before the Final Push
Before making the final push to make the app live, it is always a good idea to have the app tested in closed user groups. What this step does is help you identify how the app is going to be received and how the users will go through the initial few days.
This will also help you list down if there are any problems/bugs or last-minute fixes you have to make before finally going live.
Hopefully, this article has guided you in your journey of app development and launch. Of course, if you’d rather have us, at Alfabolt, help you develop the app of your dreams, book your free consultation now!