Five essential steps for Google Play app store acceptance

Running a mobile app development agency is seriously hard work. You spend weeks and often months ideating, conceptualizing, designing, developing, testing, launching and optimizing world beating apps for your customers, only to be left hanging in terms of when your creation will finally be accepted onto Google Play. We recently looked at the Apple App Store and five essential steps you need to consider when launching iOS apps. Now we’re focusing on Google Play. So if you’re a mobile agency developing Android apps for your clients, here are the top 5 things you need to consider to ensure a quick and painless acceptance process:

1. Determine the size of your app

If you’re developing and marketing client apps to Google Play, before you press the launch button you’ll need to specify the size of your app. The size of your client’s app is liable to influence its overall design and precisely how you publish it to Google Play. As it stands the total maximum size for an APK published on Google Play is 100MB. If your Android app exceeds this size and is greater than 100MB (or if you’re attempting to offer a secondary download), Google recommends using APK Expansion Files. Google Play will then host the expansion files for free and automatically handle the download process across multiple devices.

If you’re busy managing multiple Android launches for your clients, using APK Expansion Files is an awesome way to provide a convenient and cost effective means of deploying large apps that exceed the 100MB limit imposed by Google. However, there are a few things you should consider in relation to the use of APK Expansion Files. Firstly, using APK Expansion Files will require some changes to your app binary and you’ll need to make those changes before creating your release ready APK.

If you’re an agency looking for a slick way to minimize the size of your app binary, try running the ProGuard tool or something similar that can obfuscate your code when bundling together your release-primed APK.

2. Create your platform and screen compatibility ranges

Before launching your latest Android app to Google Play app store, you need to specify your ranges for platform and screen compatibility. This means that your Android app will be optimized to run properly on the Android platform versions and applicable device screen sizes that you wish to target.  

In terms of overall app-compatibility, Android platform versions are neatly defined by API level. You’ll also need to consider confirming the minimum version that your app is compatible with <minSdkVersion>, as this will influence how your app is distributed to Android devices once it’s published.

In terms of screen-size compatibility, you need to confirm that your Android app is capable of running properly and looks awesome on the exact range of screen-sizes and pixel densities that you’re aiming to support. However, if you’re unable to provide scalable support for multiple screen sizes, you can declare the minimum screen size supported by your apps using <supports-screens>. Google Play can then intelligently restrict the availability of your apps, ensuring they can only be deployed to devices with your specified screen types.

Obviously this approach could be bad news, particularly if you can’t control the devices that the ap will run on. All good for a business app where the device the app is running on is known. Not good if it’s a consumer app as it could considerably limit who has a chance to see and download the app.

3. Choose if your Android app will be free or paid

When launching apps to Google Play, you can decide whether they are set to be downloaded for free or priced. If you’re developing a free app, it will be available to any Android user accessing the Google Play app store, whereas paid apps work slightly differently. If you’re developing a paid app for Android, you’ll need to be aware that your app can only be downloaded in countries that support paid app downloads and possess an authorized form of payment within Google Play (debit/credit card etc).

This might seem like an obvious consideration when launching your client’s Android app, but making the right choice is fundamental. Making the call on whether to make your app free or paid is essential because once you dictate that your app is set be free, it must then remain free and you won’t be able to change it in the future. This means that you cannot launch your app as free and change it to being paid in the future. However, if you set your app as being free, you can still roll-out in-app products and subscriptions at a later date through Google’s in-app billing service.

However, if you set your app as being paid when it’s launched, you can then change it at any time and revert back to being a free app. But, if you’ve changed your app from paid to free, you cannot then revert it back to being a priced app. Confused slightly? Don’t worry we’ll keep you on top of things. Basically you have to consider whether your app will be priced or free well in advance of launch and build your development/launch plans to suit. If you haven’t already considered it, and are developing a paid app to sell in-app products, you’ll need to set up a Google Merchant account before you proceed to launch to Google Play.

4. Get to grips with the Google Play review process

The acceptance process for Google Play has altered considerably since it was first launched so it’s essential that as an agency, you’re constantly on top of all the latest changes to the rules and regulations surrounding the Google Play acceptance process. If you’re a mobile agency developing a new app and trying to meet a launch deadline for a client, it’s essential to keep ahead of the game and always stay on top of the rules to avoid missing a crucial client deadline.

This means that if Google shifts the goalposts, as it does consistently in order to provide a better experience for developers and app consumers alike, you’re always one step ahead and positioned in the best possible place to deliver maximum value for your loyal app clients.

So back in March 2015 Google changed the way in which apps are accepted to Google Play and changed to a human-driven app store review process. As a mobile agency, this represents a fundamental shift in the way you design, develop and ultimately launch your apps to the store. Understanding the review process will influence every aspect of your mobile app development project in terms of being able to launch on-time, bug-free and keeping your customers sweet. It’s not just timing that’s a fundamental consideration when it comes to acceptance. You’ll also need to focus on the quality of the apps you develop for customers as Google continues to improve the app store experience for developers, businesses and consumers alike.

5. Test, test and test again

If you’re an agency developing apps through an MVP methodology framework, the temptation is to launch your app to Google Play before it’s actually ready. Balancing a ‘lean’ philosophy with quality control is a constant balancing act for all mobile agencies so it’s essential to plan your launch date well ahead of schedule. The whole point of developing an MVP is to optimize your Android app once it’s been launched, not to use potential app users as guinea pigs to test an app that is full of bugs and does not work properly.

If you’re developing mobile apps for Android there are a bunch of solutions you can consider using to maximize your chance of a successful submission: HockeyApp, Appaloosa, TestFairy, Play Store and Apphance. These tools offer a variety of features for your Android project including support for continuous deployment, mobile version support, support for individual permissions for testers and distribution list permissioning.

The final word on Google Play app store acceptance

If you’re an agency in the business of launching mobile apps for your clients, it’s always beneficial if you can increase your chances of a speedy submission. Please be aware that the above is not a complete list of things you need to consider before submission but more of a guide on how to get you started. In actual fact, there are tons of things you need to consider in order to maximize your chances of a quick approval and the five tips we’ve listed above will only act as a starting point. The reality is that understanding how to ensure your clients apps are approved quickly comes with first-hand experience of the process.


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