An all new tutorial on this subject is available here as of May 2016! There is still some great information below – read both!
Apps you create in App Inventor may be added to the Google Play Store.
The process is not difficult but there are many steps to the process and you will need to create some graphic images to illustrate and promote your app in the store.
Summary of the Steps
- Set your app’s VersionCode and VersionName.
- Apply for a Google Developer account (one time fee of US $25 after which you can upload an unlimited number of apps, forever).
- Create at least two and up to 8 screenshots of your app for display in the store’s app listing.
- Create a “feature graphic” and a high resolution icon for use in the store listing.
- Use the App Inventor provided keystore file, or use a keystore file you have created elsewhere or previously.
- Build and export your app as a .apk file to your computer.
- Create a title for your app in the store
- Write a description for your app to appear in the store
- Decide on free versus paid (paid requires a “merchant account” to be set up).
- Upload your apk file, keystore file, image files and title and description, and provide some additional information (such as product category, pricing, and target audience).
- Set your app’s VersionCode and VersionName. Open your app in App Inventor. Select the Screen1 component in the Designer and then refer to the Properties of Screen1, at the right side of the screen. At the bottom of the properties list, you should see a VersionCode and VersionName items. The VersionCode is a decimal number indicating the version of your app. It starts at 1, and every time you revise the app for submission to the Google Play store, it must be incremented by one such that the next upload is “2”, then “3” and so on. Separately, you can enter a text version name – this may contain anything you want it to contain. Most developers will use 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc, to indicate minor updates, and then change that 2.0 for the next major update.
- Sign up for a Google developer account – https://play.google.com/apps/publish/signup/ – or login into your existing developer account.
- Create a set of screen snapshots after installing and running the app on your phone. On my phone, I simultaneously press the Power button and the Volume Down button and Android creates a screen snapshot image or photo of my screen. I use that to create screen snapshots of various screens in my app. Then I either email the photo files to myself and download on my computer, or connect up my phone over USB and copy files. If your app may also run on a tablet, you will need to create screen snapshots on a tablet device. Specifics on screen snapshots as quoted from Google:
- “JPEG or 24-bit PNG (no alpha)
- Minimum dimension: 320px
- Maximum dimension: 3840px
- The maximum dimension of your screenshot can’t be more than twice as long as the minimum dimension.”
- Design your feature graphic and high resolution icon. For this you will need some graphic software. You can create images using painting programs, or GIMP (free), but there are also commercial drawing and illustration programs that may do a better job (but cost money). If you do not know how to use these painting or drawing programs, you will need to learn how to use them – or if you are lucky, may be you have a friend that does graphic design!
For your feature graphic:
- JPEG or 24-bit PNG (no alpha)
- Dimensions: 1024px by 500px
For your icon graphic:
- 32-bit PNG (with alpha)
- Dimensions: 512px by 512px
- Maximum file size: 1024KB”
- Create your app’s Title (up to 30 characters)
- Create your app’s product description (up to 4000 characters)
- Determine your app’s price. App’s that start out as free will always remain free (can not change to a paid app later). However, to have a paid app you must set up a “merchant account” with Google (not described in this tutorial – you will see information on setting up a “merchant account” in the Pricing & Distribution section of the Google Play listing management – see illustration below).
- Download the .apk file to your computer. In App Inventor, open your project and then select Build | App (save .apk file to my computer).
- About keystore files. In App Inventor, the Projects menu has options to import and export keystore files. A keystore file is a digital signature that uniquely identifies the app. If you have a keystore file you from elsewhere (such as creating Java apps in Android Studio or Eclipse), you and import that file here. If you do not have a keystore file, App Inventor will create one for you and associate it with your account. When you Build apps in App Inventor, your .apk files will be “signed” with this keystore file.A keystore file is a unique digital signature. If you later wish to update your app, you must provide the original keystore file. If you lose the keystore file, then you will not be able to update the existing app in the store (although you could still delete it or remove it from the store). This also means that you would lose any user reviews or comments about your app. Therefore, store and backup your keystore file to a safe place. I store mine on two computers plus have a copy located in a cloud storage system. A LOST KEYSTORE FILE CAN NEVER BE RECOVERED; ONCE LOST, IT IS LOST FOREVER.You can use Projects | Export keystore to save a copy on your computer; use Import keystore to load an existing keystore file into App Inventor and then Build your .apk file.
- Upload your .apk file and other “assets” to the Google Play store. After your file is uploaded (optionally you may skip the .apk upload and move to the product description, if you wish, and then upload the .apk later). As you can see, you can proceed down a set of options at left to incrementally add each of the required files and information to the store listing.
- Other issues – if your app targets Android devices running Android OS before 4.0, then you also need to create a 180×120 pixel “promo graphic”. See the screen shots and icon reference, below.
As you can see, none of these steps are super difficult but they may be time consuming! The hardest parts are likely to be doing the graphic design for your feature graphic and high res icon files, and setting up a merchant account if you intend to charge a price for your app.
- Sign up for a developer account – https://play.google.com/apps/publish/signup/
- How to register for a developer account – https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/6112435?hl=en
- Getting Started with Publishing – http://developer.android.com/distribute/googleplay/start.html
- App Inventor specific: http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/ai2/google-play.html
- Google’s check list to preparing a store listing: http://developer.android.com/distribute/tools/launch-checklist.html
- Google’s specifications for screen shots and icon images: https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/1078870
- Google’s information on designing promotional graphics for use as the “featured graphic” and the high resolution icon: http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2011/10/android-market-featured-image.html
E-Books and Printed Books
If you find these tutorials helpful (I hope you do!) please take a look at my books on App Inventor. To learn more about the books and where to get them (they are inexpensive) please see my App Inventor Books page.
- App Inventor 2 Introduction (Volume 1 e-book)
Step-by-step guide to easy Android programming
- App Inventor 2 Advanced Concepts (Volume 2 e-book)
Step-by-step guide to Advanced features including TinyDB
- App Inventor 2 Databases and Files (Volume 3 e-book)
Step-by-step TinyDB, TinyWebDB, Fusion Tables and Files
- App Inventor 2 Graphics, Animation and Charts (Volume 4 e-book and printed book)
Step-by-step guide to graphics, animation and charts
Thank you for visiting! — Ed