If you have ever been frustrated by rejection (or even just really long review processes) for iOS, you are going to love the process to get an app on Google Play. Not only is it fast and easy (less than 24 hours,) it is also cheap – it costs just $25 to be registered as a Google Developer. And that is a one-time fee, as opposed to Apple’s $99 annual fee.
Step 1 – Register as a Google Developer
This is really a two-part step, but you have probably already done the first part and did not realize it. It should be no surprise that registering as a Google Developer uses the same account that you use for Gmail, Google+ and other Google properties.
Step 1a – Set up Google Account
Whether you have a Google account or not, to get started go to https://play.google.com/apps/publish/signup/.
If you already have a Google account, you can sign in with it. You should give some thought to whether it is better for your situation to use your existing (personal?) Google Account, or create a new one dedicated to your app business.
If you do not have a Google account (or if you want a new one,) you will be directed to create one. As you can see in the image below, it is very straightforward and completely free.
Step 1b – Register as Google Developer
Once you have set up your Google Account, you will be given the option to become a “Developer”!
The only thing you have to do on the screen above is read and agree to the terms of service, then click “Continue to payment” which opens a smaller Google Wallet.
Simply fill in the requested information and click “Accept and Continue.” Follow the instructions of any further confirmation screens and/or emails, and you will soon be taken to your Developer Console. Bookmark your console because you will return here often over the life of your apps.
Congratulations – you are now officially a Google Developer!
Step 2 – Upload Your App and Some Images & Then Answer a Few Questions
This part takes a little longer than step 1, but it too is straightforward. To get started, go to your individual developer console that you bookmarked above or use this generic address – https://play.google.com/apps/publish/.
Step 2a – “+ Add new application”
At the top of your console, you will see a big blue button that says “+ Add new application”. Click it.
A smaller window will open.
Set the “Default Language,” then enter your app name.
Your app name can be up to 30 characters and factors in to App Store Optimization, or ASO. Note: this article is intended to show you HOW to submit your app, and do so quickly. It is not intended to dive deeply into App Store Optimization, pricing strategies or other important topics. To stay on task, I will ignore ASO in this article, but you should not – for more on ASO, read the great articles here at Chupamobile by Gabriel Machuret.
Click “Upload APK” or “Prepare Store Listing.” These are two of the three required screens that you will ultimately need to complete to submit an app. The third required screen, “Pricing & Distribution” is not listed here, but we will get to it soon. Whether you start with the upload or the store listing is purely personal preference, so just pick one and let’s go. For this article, we start with the upload.
Step 2b – Upload APK
If your APK (Android application file) is 100% ready, you can simply click “Upload your first APK to Production.” If you first want to do some Alpha or Beta testing, click on the appropriate tab and upload the APK that way. And/or if your app is paid or has in-app purchases, click “Services & API” link to get a license key.
Once you have uploaded your APK, Google will tell you how many device types your app supports and will try to sell you translation services. Let’s just move to the next section.
Step 2c – Store Listing
This screen has several field to fill in but do not let it stress you out. You can change any of them at a later time (daily if you like, even after you have published) and all are self-explanatory. You start with you App Title (which you entered earlier, but can change here, then enter a short description (up to 80 characters) and a long description (up to 4,000 characters.)
You then move on to what Google calls your Graphical Assets – your images and a video if you have one. The first images you will upload are your screenshots. You must have at least two. They can be JPEG or PNG. The images can be for a phone, 7-inch tablet, 10-inch tablet or TV.
Then you upload your Icon. Google calls it your “Hi-res icon” and describes it as follows – “The high-res icon does not replace your app’s launcher icon, but should be a higher-fidelity, higher-resolution version that follows the same design guidelines.” It is the main image people see in Google Play. Considering the influence this little image has on download decisions, you should indeed make it as high a resolution as possible, but the maximum file size is 1024KB which can make things tricky. The dimensions need to be 512px by 512px and it must be a 32-bit PNG (with alpha).
Next you will upload your Feature Graphic. Until a few months ago, this was an optional image. Even if it were not required, you would want to spend time creating and uploading a nice image because it is “featured” at the top of your app’s page in Google Play. I have neglected to go back and add Feature Graphics to all my apps. When you look at two of my listings side by side below, the importance of the Feature Graphic is evident.
The Feature Graphic should be a JPG or PNG that is 1024px wide by 500px in height. Optimally, you will not have much text – Google considers this a teaser, not an ad. Any text should be large and very easy to read and centered vertically and horizontally. Background colors should be vivid since Google Play background colors are white and black. You can localize your image for different languages.
One good thing is that I have not seen any image size limitations for Feature Graphic. In fact, Google emphasizes that the resolution of this image needs to be fantastic because it will need to scale to very large or very small and still look great.
Thinking of a really great Feature Graphic can be challenging since you should not simply use your icon or screenshots, which will already be on the app’s Google Play page. Remember, if you do not have a Feature Graphic ready, you can still save everything else and return to it later. In fact that goes for everything here – you can save your submission as a draft and resume work at a later time.
The last three graphical assets are optional and will probably be skipped by most of you:
- Promo Graphic – used for older versions of Android and is optional. If you have a JPG or 24-bit PNG that can scale to 180px by 120px, then use it. If nothing comes to mind, you can skip this image.
- Banner Asset (Android TV) – only displayed on Android TV devices.
- Promo Video – if you have a video, great! For this one, instead of uploading a file, you link to the YouTube video that you want to use.
“Categorization” is the next section and just includes three fields – all are required but all are easy with drop-down menus:
- Application Type – two options Applications or Games
- Category – the options here are dependent upon which Application type you selected.
- Content Rating – four options from High Maturity to Everyone. There is a link to pages to help you determine the appropriate rating. The pages include Google Play Developer Content Policy. The pages get very specific on numerous topics from the obvious (Sexual and suggestive content) to not-so-obvious (apps with user generated content.) Use the guidance that Google provides along with a little common sense. You do not want a user reporting you for inappropriate content on an app rated “Everyone.”
Next is your Contact Details. Your website, email and phone are requested, but only the email is required for free apps. For paid apps and apps with in-app purchases, a physical address is now also required.
That is the end of your Store Listing. Press “Save” at the top of the page, then let’s move on to Pricing & Distribution.
Step 2d – Pricing & Distribution
The first thing you are asked on the Pricing & Distribution page is whether your app is Free or Paid. I understand that some iOS publishers toggle between Free and Paid occasionally to boost download numbers, but this is not possible on Android. Once an app is published as Free, it cannot be changed to paid.
For Paid apps, you are asked to provide a Default Price. This default price can be used as the basis to generate prices in other countries OR, you can set individual prices for each country in which you plan to sell your app.
Next you choose the countries in which your app will be distributed. The first checkbox is for all countries. This is something you can change later, so if you have devised a launch strategy that has you starting in particular countries and rolling out to others at a later date (or multiple dates) that is perfectly fine. This is where you can modify pricing by country for Paid apps.
The next item is odd in my humble opinion – Android TV. There is not a checkbox to select, a field to fill in or the ability to upload anything. Instead it simply says “Add a Leanback launch intent to distribute your app on Android TV. Learn more”. The “Learn more” is a link to pages that tell you how to build apps for TV.
You finish this screen with a series of four checkboxes:
- Google Play for Education – this flags Google that you would like to request that they include you in a program where the apps are provided to 3rd party teachers. For most of us, this is irrelevant.
- Marketing Opt-out – check this box if you do NOT want Google to promote your app outside of Google Play. I cannot understand why someone might check this, but maybe you have a scenario.
- Content Guidelines – checking this box is mandatory. You are certifying that you comply with all of the content rules that you are provided links for, which includes spam, spyware, sex and nudity, ads, intellectual property, etc.
- US Export Laws – since I am based in the United States, this checkbox is required for me to attest that “I acknowledge that my software application may be subject to United States export laws.” There are pages provided with details on export compliance if needed. I am not certain if developers in other countries are shown this checkbox or similar ones for their own countries. (Feel free to let me know by commenting at the end of the article.)
That is the end of Pricing & Distribution. Press “Save” at the top of the page. You should be ready to submit your app.
Step 3 – Submit
When you pressed “Save” on the final screen above, the circles around the three checkmarks on the left should have become Android green.
For most apps, that is all that is needed. The quickest way to know if your app is ready to submit is to look at the upper right part of the screen to see if there is a drop down that says “Draft” or “Ready to Publish”.
If the drop-down says “Draft” you still have a little work to do. First off, ensure the three items on the left have green checks like in the image above. If one does not have a checkmark, click on that one. Once on that page, Google does not always make it easy to quickly know what action you need to take. Just look at each item carefully. It is not rocket science. You will figure what you are missing. Once you have corrected the oversight or mistake and pressed “Save”, you should see the “Ready to Publish” drop-down menu.
Click “Ready to Publish” then select “Publish this app” from the drop-down menu. You are done! Now it is Google’s hands. And remember, Google does not do Apple-like reviews. Basically, Google validates certain things as they are submitted, and now things just need to be propagated to the servers. Propagation usually takes less than 24 hours, so go start work on marketing the app.
Good luck! We would love any questions, corrections and additions in the comments below.