Google Play Developer Console – Alpha Testing

I was impressed by the Google Play Developer Console announcements surrounding alpha/beta testing. At work and on other personal/contracting projects I use TestFlight. They just added Android support but with the latest updates to the Developer Console…I’m not as intrigued as I once was. After seeing so many great sessions at I/O 2013, I found myself itching to test things out so I started sketching my Windows 8 app Timely (easily the fastest to dev out of the bunch) for a port to Android (native).

In another post I’ll detail different tidbits about porting the app to Android but in this post I want to focus on the testing.

Developer Console - Alpha Testing TabThe first thing I noticed was the simplicity. Once you’re on the Alpha Testing tab you simply upload the APK and you’re set. From there you can control supported/excluded devices and your alpha testers.

You also have a list of the uploaded APKs with a very easy way to upgrade from alpha to beta testing or skip beta and go to production with the Promote… button. One of the sweetest parts was controlling the alpha testers. I expected something much more difficult but it was an interesting and welcomed feature.

Developer Console - Testers

I’ve been messing with Google+ Communities more and more lately so to see a really easy way to create a private G+ community to manage your alpha testers was pretty cool. After creating the community it is as simple as pasting the link to the community and clicking Add. Yes, this image has the link to the app but you have to be a part of the G+ community to access it.

Once you are in the community you can go to the opt-in link.

Developer Console - Opt-inOpting in is another surprisingly simple task. It gives you all of the details you need to know with one primary button for you to click: Become A Tester.

Developer Console - Opted-inIt will then alert you to being included and clicking the link to the app will open the Play Store allowing you to install it to your devices. Going back to the same link will allow you to leave the test group as well. Props to El Goog on this one!

Within the hour, Timely was in the Play Store and ready for testers to test. It does take time for it to propagate through Google’s servers so some testers may see it before others. I’m really interested in the flow to beta then production. This could be pretty useful at work so I’m thrilled to see the ease of use/implementation.

This is a welcomed changed and one of the more exciting and useful updates from I/O for the Developer Console.

Timely in Play Store

  • Koblaid

    I created a private non-visible community with Google+ and tried to add the url to the beta testers but it said: “Group not suitable”. Do you have an idea what I did wrong? Do I have to wait some time after the creation of the community before the Developer Console can see it? Or does it have to be a searchable community?
    Thanks, Koblaid

    • Boogscraft

      I just had this issue, you need to paste the whole URL to the community, not just the name.

      My issue now is that the link that google gives me for the community to opt in throws a 404

  • lapizz

    Ran into a situation:

    It is really easy to upload an APK in the Production tab by mistake, since it is the default one.
    If an APK moves to Production, the Production tab can never be empty again!

    This means that, since you can only Unpublish the whole project, if you want to keep your beta running, you need to have an APK visible in the Play store.

    Can someone help if they know this not to be true?

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      I can see that being the case. It is definitely a user error they can’t protect against.

      I checked my apps and unpublishing seems to be the only way.

  • Rodrigo Amaro Reveco

    im little confuse, I upload an apk to alpha and another to beta, each one with diferents features . I want to share the alpha apk to an internal group managed by a google groups, and the beta with other one more general. If I’m member of each group, how can I change my app from alpha to beta? what version is the default seeing in the google play by my like alpha and beta tester member? :S

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      That, I don’t know. I’m going to work on the app this weekend to test out the beta. I’ll blog that when I do.

      • Rodrigo Amaro Reveco

        I’m testing it now, and I don’t see any difference :S I’ll wait tomorrow to confirm, maybe my new build in alpha isn’t propagated by google yet

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          It did take a while to get through for me as well.

    • Marc

      The Dev Console itself displays a hint that devices that qualify for multiple versions of your apk get the newest version. I hope you you used different versions :)

  • Ankit Shah

    What about “Paid Apps”…

    I am uploading one “alpha_version” apk under “Alpha” tab… I have tagged application as “Paid” app and also configured specific prices… (As Google does not allows to change from “Free” to “Paid”). I have also added “Tester” for this alpha version.. My question/query is

    1. Once I publish this “alpha” version – does it view-able/visible on Google Play store (I am sure it will be for visible for tester only not for all users)

    2. As my application is “Paid” one – can testers download without paying for “alpha” version Or

    3. Can I set application mode as “Free” for “Alpha” and “Paid” for Production build?

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      1. Yes, for your users only and I only saw it on the web [not the device].
      2. I’m not sure as I went free on my app but do tell once you publish the alpha.
      3. Not from what I saw. It said the same to be “once free, always free”.

      • Jacques Landry

        2. Yes, it seems that they have to pay. I try myself to download my alpha version and they required me to pay. Then, when I tried to pay, I received the message that I cannot buy from myself. I dont see any way how I could test it myself unless I registered under an another name. Did I missed somethings?

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          I haven’t done a paid one yet. I’ll do one soon and post about it.

          • severett

            John or Jacques, did either of you ever solve this problem? I have the exact same problem. I think Google has overlooked this. You can’t test and app that will be for sale because it won’t let you purchase it from yourself, and you can’t set the app to free, because Google prohibits you from ever charging for the app if you have previously set it to free! So as far as I can tell, this whole thing they have set up to be able to alpha, then beta, then promote to production in the store won’t work for any paid app! The only workaround I can see is to make a completely different app page in the store and name the app something like my_app_free and the site My App Free and do the beta testing in there with the price set to FREE. Then when you finally get all the bugs worked out, or even if there are NO bugs, you will have to add a different KEY to your code and compile a new version with a different app name and upload that one to production on the “other” non-free app page you have created. There are several major drawbacks to this approach, first it won’t be the same code and you may have introduced bugs or errors because you SDK or drivers, or version of Windows, etc. may have changed since you compiled the beta.apk; and second, it defeats the whole concept of being able to have the production and a beta and an alpha all in testing simultaneously and upgrade the beta to production if it tests ok! Please tell me there is a way to make this work?

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            I have yet to try a paid app so can’t be of assistance on that front. The work around of using two apps would work but that just feels terribly tedious.

            The docs don’t have anything helpful about it either: https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/3131213?hl=en.

          • JulesVernes

            There seems to be a possibility to set up a test environment when offering a paid app. Didn’t check it but here’s what Google says:

            http://developer.android.com/google/play/licensing/setting-up.html#test-env

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            Good find. Thx for sharing.

  • Patrick Linehan

    Just FYI, if you are using a Google Group you need to use the full email address of the group, not the group name nor the group URL, e.g. my-group-name@googlegroups.com.

  • Chris

    I published my alpha apk approximately 24 hours ago. When I opt in and click the link, it still brings me to the in prod version of my app. I have uninstalled all versions of my app from my phone prior to clicking the link. Anyone else having this issue? Should I just wait and hope that it will post the newer version soon when I click the link? How long did it take for your alpha APK’s to go through google and become downloadable?

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      It took a while to propagate. If I recall, it was a day or two for it to fully show up.

  • Guillermo Polonsky

    Hi, I’m confused about the testers. I’ve uploaded alpha apk in alpha tab but I can’t add tester account only introducing email, Is the only way to add a tester, add a google group o google+? Thanks. Guillermo.

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      Yes. You have to use a Google Group or Google+ community.

      • Nicole Goodfellow

        I tried a google group, and it wouldn’t accept it. So created a private community and that worked.

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          Interesting. I’ve done both with success. I wonder why yours didn’t work.

  • Felix

    I’ve got a problem with the testers link:

    I uploaded a .apk-file for alpha testing and when I click “Manage list of testers” and add my Google Group there is no link shown for sharing the store-listing to my testers.
    I first of all waited for 3 days, still no link. Then I tried the same with a Google+ Community, but still no link.

    I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong? Any ideas?

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      I can’t read the screenshot but when I looked at my apps page this screen looks slightly different. It gives me the URL in that modal.

      Try this: https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.company.yourapphere.

      Just replace the `com.company.yourapphere` part with your app id. See if that works.

      • Felix

        On my screenshot there’s written the same as on your’s, only in german.
        But the difference is that for me there is no link shown.

        I just tested the way with the https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.company.yourapphere link (and added my package name) but I receive an “Error 404, not found”.

        I also checked the HTML-Code of the page: There exists the which should display the link, but it is hidden and there is no link in it… :/
        I really don’t know what could be wrong that I get no testers link…

        • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

          Did you publish already?

          • Felix

            No I only uploaded an alpha-test version. But I have also tried if the problem still exists if I upload a production-version and it did.

            In the mean time I looked up for help in the Google support… I found that the problem could be that I have no “Google Apps” account as my developer account, but a simple “Google Mail” account?

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            Nah, I use my gmail account with no problem. You have to publish the APK to get it live. That may generate the link for you.

            When viewing your app details page, look in the top right corner. You should see:

          • Felix

            Sorry but if I publish it, isn’t it then avaiable for all users on Google Play? (that’s what i don’t want)

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            If you have a production APK, yeah.

  • Nicole Goodfellow

    What’s the difference between the Google Play Dev console (play.google.com) and the Google Dev console? (https://console.developers.google.com/)