How to Prepare Your Android App for Publication

You may have developed what you believe to be a solid application for the Android platform. While the app may work well in your care, what about making it public? What are the steps necessary to do so? This tutorial will discuss an overview of what you need to do to get your Android app ready for publication so that other users can enjoy what it has to offer. You will not be shown the steps necessary to publish the app itself. Instead, this is a step-by-step guide of the prerequisites you should complete before taking the final step of submitting the app for publication on the Android Market.

Test your app

The first step in preparing your app for publication once it is developed is to test it properly.  This doesn’t mean testing the app on one Android device and calling it a day.  If possible, you should try to test your app on as many Android devices  that you can get your hands on to ensure compatibility.  Of course, there are other ways to test your app (we’ll discuss these in a bit) that don’t require a physical Android device, but they are not as useful.  When you test your app on a physical device, you get to see how its user interface looks and interacts in a realistic setting.  Besides its look, your app’s performance can also be gauged and monitored, as can its effects on battery life.  Make sure that when you test your app on a physical device that it’s done under network conditions that are reasonable and not ideal. 

As mentioned, there are other app testing avenues that you can try out in addition to testing on a physical Android device.  There’s the UI/Application Exerciser Monkey, which is a program that will run on your physical device or an emulator.  It works by producing randomized event streams of actions such as user clicks, touches, gestures, etc.  Another option is the Instrumentation testing class that can be used to run JUnit and a variety of other test cases.

Emulators are solid alternative to physical devices for app testing, but they are obviously not a complete replacement for the real thing.  An emulator basically helps to mimic a physical device in its look and function.  You could say that one benefit of using the emulator method is flexibility.  Thanks to options such as -device, -scale, -netspeed, and others, you can tweak your emulator to have it match the physical device the app is intended for as much as possible.  Adjusting the options allows you to do simulated tests of your app’s capabilities and how they work in accordance with a device in terms of user interface, performance, and other areas.

Protect your app

Once your app is tested and good to go, it’s time to move into some of the formalities associated with the publication process.  The first thing you may want to consider is the addition of a End User License Agreement (EULA)  Why? There are several reasons to include such an agreement, and it’s in your best interest to do so if you want to ensure that you and your organization are protected.  It’s a litigious world, and you can never take too many precautions from outsiders who may become disgruntled with your product.  It’s also a good idea to include a EULA to protect your intellectual property.  After all, you don’t want your hard work to be stolen by others.

Another addition that deserves some consideration is that of the Android Market Licensing Service.  This service’s value comes from the fact that it allows you to control access to your applications in a secure manner.  If enabled, the service will check the licensing status of an app’s user.  The status will then give you the ability to apply constraints to the use of the app.  For instance, if the user has not yet paid for the app, you could restrict them to using it five times before having to make a purchase.  You could also restrict the app’s usage to a specific time period before it expires.  Since you do not need to register or have a special account to use the licensing service, it’s something you should definitely look into.

{mospagebreak title=Branding Your Android Mobile App}

Brand your app

Now that some of the formalities are out of the way, you must specify your app’s icon and label in the manifest.  How you specify these two items is quite crucial, as they represent your app in a short, but sweet way.  Some places where your icon and label will appear are on the Android device’s Home screen, in the My Downloads section, and Manage Applications, to name a few.  Your label should obviously be descriptive, and your icon should mimic the overall style/format of some popular integrated Android applications.  You can specify your app’s icon and label via the manifest’s <application> element by defining the android:icon and android:label attributes.

Clean up your app

Another important step to complete prior to the publication process is to essentially clean up your app.  This is done in a few steps.  First, you want to get rid of the android:debuggable=”true” attribute from the manifest’s <application> element.  Next, you should eliminate any dead weight from the app, including backup files, log files, etc.  If you have any private or proprietary data, get rid of it as well.  Finally, any calls to Log methods in the source code should be deactivated.

Define a version number for your application

When you are about to release your app’s inaugural version, you should number it according to how you plan to release updates in the future.  Once you have your plan in mind, you can specify the version’s value through the android:versionCode and android:versionName attributes that exist in the <manifest> element of the manifest file.

Generate and obtain a suitable private key

Before you can sign your app (this comes near the end), you must have a suitable private key. This key has several characteristics that make it suitable for use.  It must be in your possession, represent the entity identified with the app, is not the debug key produced by Android SDK tools, and has a validity period greater than the app’s expected lifespan (usually over 25 years).  You can run Keytool to generate and obtain a suitable key.

Get a Maps API Key, if necessary

This step will cause a hold up for anyone with an app that uses one or more MapView elements.  If you fall into this category, you must get a Maps API Key by registering with Google Maps.  You must have this key before you can compile your app and subsequently publish it. 

Compile and complete

After you finished the aforementioned steps and obtained your Maps API Key, if applicable, you can proceed to compile your application.

After you have compiled your app, you must sign it with your private key and align it using the zipalign tool.  The last step is to test the app once again on a physical Android device to see that it’s working properly in all facets. 

Your app should now be ready for submission and publication to the Android Market. 

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