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Staged releases allow you to bring new features to your users quickly, safely and regularly.

Posted by Peter Armitage, Software Engineer, Google Play

Releasing a new version of your app is an exciting moment when your team's hard work finally gets into the hands of your users. However, releasing can also be challenging - you want to keep your existing users happy without introducing performance regressions or bugs. At Google I/O this year, we talked about staged releases as an essential part of how Google does app releases, allowing you to manage the inherent risks of a new release by making a new version of your app available to just a fraction of your users. You can then increase this fraction as you gain confidence that your new version works as expected. We are excited that starting today staged releases will be possible on testing tracks, as well as the production track.

We will take a closer look at how staged releases work, and how you can use them as part of your release process.

Advantages of a staged release

The first benefit of a staged release is that it only exposes a fraction of your users to the new version. If the new version contains a bug, only a small number of people will be inconvenienced by it. This is much safer than releasing a new version to all of your users at once.

Another benefit is that if you discover a bug, you can halt the rollout, preventing any new users from downloading that version. Instead, they will receive the previous version.

These capabilities should relieve a lot of the uncertainty of rolling out a new version. And that will allow you to do it more often. We encourage releasing versions of a server more often because it reduces the number of changes between each release, allowing you to more easily test and troubleshoot. The same principle applies to apps, though there will be a delay before most of your users upgrade to the latest version.

Staged releases as part of your normal release process

Let's look at a typical release process for an app with 100,000 users.

  1. Every Monday the developer builds a new version of the app from the latest version of the code that passes the automatic tests. They push the new release to Google Play's internal test track, and their QA team immediately starts testing it manually. Any bugs they find can be fixed and a new version can be built and pushed for them to re-check.
  2. On Tuesday, if the QA team have approved the latest release, it can be promoted to the app's alpha track. All the employees at the company have opted in to testing. Once the new release is pushed to the alpha track, the employees can download the new version. They can do this manually, or they may have auto-updates enabled, in which case they will probably update within a few hours.
  3. On Wednesday, if there are no reported issues with the release, they can promote the release to the production track and start a rollout at 10%. This means 10,000 users will have the opportunity to upgrade. Some will upgrade immediately, others will wait. The 10% of users that receive the app first are randomly selected, and the users will be randomly chosen each week.
  4. On Thursday, the developer checks the Play Console to see their crash reports, Android vitals, and feedback. If these all look good they can increase the rollout to 100%. All users will be able to upgrade to the new version.
  5. On Friday, the developer doesn't change anything, to ensure a stress-free weekend!

For big apps and small apps

Some apps are just starting out, and although there's no QA team, it's still worth testing the app on a few different devices before releasing it. Instead of having a track for employees, the developer has added their friends and family, who can contact them if they see an issue.

When an app gets larger and uses the open testing track, it may have 5,000 testers. These testers won't give public feedback on the Play store, but will be able to give feedback to the developer directly. If this app has 1 million users, they may first release to 1%, before going to 10%, then 100%.

Once an app becomes very popular, it could have over 100,000 testers. In that case the developer is now able to do a staged release on their testing track.

How to bounce back from issues

Bugs happen, and if you discover a problem with your new version you may want to halt the release. This will stop users from getting the new version, either by upgrading or installing for the first time. However, those who have already got the new version will not downgrade.

If the issue was not in the app itself, but on a server that the app communicates with, it may be best to fix the issue in the server, then resume the release. Resuming it allows some fraction of your users to access the new version again. This is the same set of users that were able to download the release before it was halted.

If the issue was in the app, you will have to fix it and release a new version. Or alternatively, you may choose to rebuild the previous version with a higher version code. Then you can start a staged release to the same set of users that the previous release went to.

API support

Staged releases are supported in v3 of the Play Console API on all tracks. Mark a release as "inProgress" and set a fraction of the population to target. For instance, to start a staged release to 5%:

{
  "releases": [{
      "versionCodes": ["99"],
      "userFraction": 0.05,
      "status": "inProgress"
  }]
}

Alternatively, if you release using the UI, it will suggest a fraction.

What next?

We hope you find these features useful and take advantage of them for successful updates with Google Play. If you're interested in some of the other great tools for distributing your apps, check out the I/O 2018 sessions, and learn more about test tracks and staged updates.

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Exclusive new organic acquisition insights on the Google Play Console

Posted by Tom Grinsted, Product Manager, Google Play

We've updated the Play Console acquisition reports to give new insights into what users do on the Play Store to discover your app. It's a great way to super-charge your App Store Optimization (ASO) and onboarding experience.

One of the things every developer wants to know is how people discover their app or game. User acquisition reports in the Google Play Console are a great way to understand this. For many apps and games, a stand-out source is Organic traffic — it's usually the largest or second largest source of store listing visits and installs.

Organic traffic is made up of people who come to your store listing while exploring or searching the Play Store. These visitors might find your app in a seasonal collection, from featuring, or while searching for a specific use case or term.

Until recently, this traffic has been bundled together with no breakdown of data into user behavior. With our latest updates we have changed this by introducing new and exclusive acquisition insights to the Google Play Console. These enable you to understand what people in the Play Store do to discover your app or game. They reveal how many people discover your app through exploring the store, and how many search to find your app, and even the search terms they use!

App Store Optimization (ASO) is vital to driving your organic traffic and this update enables you to do this with more data and better understanding.

A new data breakdown

When you visit the user acquisition report, the first change you'll notice is that organic traffic is broken down. This breakdown means you can see how people arrive at your store listing by searching or exploring (actions that aren't search like browsing the homepage, visiting a category list, or viewing related apps).

This change has been of immediate benefit to developers, enabling their growth teams to optimize acquisition strategies. For example, Scopely found that:

"Isolating [explore] from search and then a deeper dive into search gives the whole organic picture. It allows us to focus on acquisition areas that really matter." Dorothee Pinlet, VP Partnerships, Scopely


Click through for more insights

From the new search row, you can click-through to see the aggregate number of people using different search terms to find your store listing, and which of those lead to the most installs. This breakdown is a view into the Play Store that has not been available before.

Our pilot partners, who helped us refine the feature ahead of launch, were very happy with how this data has helped them make more informed decisions.

Evernote found that the breakdown:

"... offers surprising and actionable insights about the effectiveness of search terms in driving installs and retained users."
May Allen, Product Manager, Evernote

Some partners changed their in-app onboarding experience to highlight features that reflected the search terms that were driving installs, to better meet user expectations. While others evaluated if their influencer marketing was having an impact by looking for their advocates' names in the search results after adding them to descriptions.

Better coverage

The new organic data also includes information about when people visiting the Play Store saw previews of your listings, not just when they visited your full page. People see these previews when they make certain searches, such as searching directly for a brand or app name. As well as more generally in some markets. This new information gives you more visibility into where people see your assets. It helps you decide how to optimize these assets, for instance by ensuring that your screenshots are impactful. And when you come to do that, you've got Store Listing Experiments.

This change means that your total reported visits and installs are likely to increase as of July 30, 2018. This increase is because previews will be counted as listing views, previously they were included in the category "Installs without store listing visits".

Putting the data to work

The developers who had the opportunity to test Organic breakdowns have given feedback that they loved them. They've also been kind enough to share some insights into how they plan to use the data. Perhaps these thoughts on how to use the data will spark some ideas for your business.

Some developers will be using this new data to evaluate their acquisition strategies by looking at the breakdown between explore and search. They will use this breakdown to evaluate the impact of exploring behaviors, especially around times when the app has been featured on the Play Store.

Using the information about popular search terms, several developers plan to change their app or game's Google Play listing to reflect user interests better. This change involves adjusting the descriptions and screenshots to tie more directly into the top search terms.

Others plan to use the insight provided by search term information to optimize their in-app onboarding. Here they plan to make sure that the onboarding talks about the features related to the most popular searches people made when discovering their app or game, highlighting and reinforcing the benefits.

Final word

Our team is always thinking about the tools we can build to help you optimize the discovery and installation of your app or game from the Play Store. Organic breakdowns is just one of these tools, a new way to help drive your success. Ultimately, your success is what we work towards. Organic breakdowns give you a more comprehensive picture of how people discover you on the Play Store so you can optimize your store presence, turning more visits into installs, and more installs into engaged users.

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Looking forward with Google Play

Posted by Purnima Kochikar, Director, Google Play, Apps & Games

On Monday we released Android 9 Pie. As we continue to push the Android platform forward, we're always looking to provide new ways to distribute your apps efficiently, help people discover and engage with your work, and improve the overall security of our ecosystem. Google Play has had a busy year so far with some big milestones around helping you reach more users, including:

  • Shrinking download size: Android App Bundle & Dynamic Delivery has helped reduce app sizes by up to 65%, leading to increased downloads and fewer uninstalls.
  • Helping improve quality: New tools in the Play Console have helped you reduce crash rates by up to 70%.
  • Improving discovery: Improvements to the discovery experience have increased Google Play Store visits by 30% over the last 12 months.
  • Keeping users safe: Google Play Protect scans more than 50 billion apps a day and Android API level 26 adoption requirements improve app security and performance.

Google Play is dedicated to helping you build and grow quality app businesses, reach the more than 2 billion Android devices globally and provide your users with better experiences. Here are some of the important areas we're prioritizing this year:

Innovative Distribution

We've added more testing tools to the popular Play Console to help developers de-risk app launches with internal and external test tracks and staged rollouts to get valuable early feedback. This year we've expanded the Start on Android program globally that provides developers new to Android additional guidance to optimize their apps before launch. Google Play Instant remains a huge bet to transform app discovery and improve conversions by letting users engage without the friction of installing. We're seeing great results from early adopters and are working on new places to surface instant experience, including ads, and making them easier to build throughout the year.

Improving App Quality

Google Play plays an important role helping developers understand and fix quality and performance issues. At I/O, we showcased how we expanded the battery, stability and rendering of Android vitals reporting to include app start time & permission denials, enabling developers to cut application not responding errors by up to 95%. We also expanded the functionality of automated device testing with the pre-launch report to enable games testing. Recently, we increased the importance of app quality in our search and discovery recommendations that has resulted in higher engagement and satisfaction with downloaded games.

Richer Discovery

Over the last year we've rolled out more editorial content and improved our machine learning to deliver personalized recommendations for apps and games that engage users. Since most game downloads come from browsing (as opposed to searching or deep linking into) the store, we've put particular focus on games discovery, with a new games home page, special sections for premium and new games, immersive video trailers and screenshots, and the ability to try games instantly. We've also introduced new programs to help drive app downloads through richer discovery. For example, since launching our app pre-registration program in 2016, we've seen nearly 250 million app pre-registrations. Going forward, we'll be expanding on these programs and others like LiveOps cards to help developers engage more deeply with their audience.

Expanding Commerce Platform

Google Play now collects payments in 150 markets via credit card, direct carrier billing (DCB), Paypal, and gift cards. Direct carrier billing is now enabled across 167 carriers in 64 markets. In 2018, we have focused on expanding our footprint in Africa and Latam with launches in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Peru & Colombia. And users can now buy Google Play credit via gift cards or other means in more 800,000 retail locations around the world. This year, we also launched seller support in 18 new markets bringing the total markets with seller support to 98. Our subscription offering continues to improve with ML-powered fraud detection and even more control for subscribers and developers. Google Play's risk modeling automatically helps detect fraudulent transactions and purchase APIs help you better analyze your refund data to identify suspicious activity.

Maintaining a Safe & Secure Ecosystem

Google Play Protect and our other systems scan and analyze more than 50 billion apps a day to keep our ecosystem safe for users and developers. In fact, people who only download apps from Google Play are nine times less likely to download a potentially harmful app than those who download from other sources. We've made significant improvements in our ability to detect abuse—such as impersonation, inappropriate content, fraud, or malware—through new machine learning models and techniques. The result is that 99% of apps with abusive content are identified and rejected before anyone can install them. We're also continuing to run the Google Play Security Rewards Program through a collaboration with Hacker One to discover other vulnerabilities.

We are continually inspired by what developers build—check out #IMakeApps for incredible examples—and want every developer to have the tools needed to succeed. We can't wait to see what you do next!

Meet the first Indie Games Accelerator class

Posted by Vineet Tanwar, Business Development Manager, Google Play

In June, we announced the Indie Games Accelerator, a new four month program to help indie game startups from India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia supercharge their growth on Android. We have been truly impressed by the overwhelming responses we have received, and the creativity that indie game developers from these regions have to offer.

We had a great time going through the applications and playing the games which were submitted for review. Now, it's finally time to announce the inaugural class of startups selected for the program who we will mentor and coach over the next few months. Here they are:

Congratulations to the selected participants and a huge thanks to everyone that applied! Find out more about the program or express your interest in joining next class of Indie Games Accelerator.

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Congrats to the new Android Excellence apps and games on Google Play

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

Join us in congratulating the latest apps and games entering the Android Excellence program on Google Play. This diverse group of apps and games is recognized for their high quality, great user experience, and strong technical performance. Whether you're interested in learning meditation or a new language, or are looking for a game about butterflies or warships, we're excited to dive in to these new collections.

Winning apps image

Check out a few of our highlighted apps.

  • Beelinguapp: Learn a new language with this unique app. Read and listen to stories with side by side text of the language you're learning, while following along with your language as a reference.
  • Fortune City: If you're looking for a fun app to help manage your personal finances, learn how Fortune City teaches good budgeting habits as you build a prospering metropolis.
  • ShareTheMeal: Feed a child in need with one tap on your phone, or create a team to fight hunger together with your friends, using this app by the World Food Programme.

Test your skills with these highlighted games.

  • Animal Crossing™: Pocket Camp: Take on the role of campsite manager as you collect items to decorate and build your ultimate dream campsite. Meet animals, build friendships and invite your favorite animals over for a fun time.
  • Cash, Inc.: Be the big boss of your business empire in this fun game. Work your way up to join a community of business elites and become the most famous money tycoon.
  • Shadowgun Legends: Save humanity from an alien invader in an epic Story Campaign spanning over 200+ mission on 4 diverse planets. Along the way, customize your character, team up with friends, and become a celebrity of the Shadowgun Universe.

See the full list of Android Excellence apps and games.

New Android Excellence apps New Android Excellence games
Beelinguapp
BTFIT
Fortune City
Letras.mus.br
LingoDeer
Memrise
PicsArt
Pocket Casts
ShareTheMeal
The Mindfulness App
Tokopedia
Trello
VivaReal
Wynk Music
Animal Crossing™: Pocket Camp
Cash, Inc.
Flutter: Starlight
Shadow Fight 3
Shadowgun Legends
War Heroes
World of Warships Blitz

Explore other great apps and games in the Editors' Choice section on Google Play and discover best practices to help you build quality apps and games.

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Launching the Indie Games Accelerator in Asia – helping gaming startups find success on Google Play

Posted by Anuj Gulati, Developer Marketing Manager, Google Play and Sami Kizilbash, Developer Relations Program Manager, Google

Emerging markets now account for more than 40% of game installs on Google Play. Rapid smartphone adoption in these regions presents a new base of engaged gamers that are looking for high quality mobile gaming experiences. At Google Play, we are focused on helping local game developers from these markets achieve their full potential and make the most of this opportunity.

Indie Games Accelerator is a new initiative to support top indie game startups from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam who are looking to supercharge their growth on Android. This four month program is a special edition of Launchpad Accelerator, designed in close collaboration with Google Play, featuring a comprehensive gaming curriculum and mentorship from top mobile gaming experts.

Successful participants will be invited to attend two all-expense-paid gaming bootcamps at the Google Asia-Pacific office in Singapore, where they will receive personalized mentorship from Google teams and industry experts. Additional benefits include Google Cloud Platform credits, invites to exclusive Google and industry events, and more.

Visit the program website to find out more and apply now.

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Grow and optimize your subscriptions with new Google Play features

Posted by Larry Yang and Angela Ying, Product Managers, Google Play

Subscriptions on Google Play continue to see huge growth, with subscribers growing over 80% year over year. At I/O 2018, we announced several improvements we're making to the user experience to reduce barriers to subscription sign-up, and more tools to let you manage your business the way you want to.

More control for subscribers

While users derive a lot of value from their subscriptions, our research shows their fears of being "trapped" in a subscription without the ability to cancel or worry they'll lose track of how much they're spending create a hindrance to users signing up for your subscription apps. To address these fears, we recently launched a new subscriptions center, a one-stop shop for users to manage their subscriptions on Google Play.

Through the subscriptions center, users can:

  • View all of their subscriptions to see details and status
  • Manage and update payment methods, including setting up a backup payment method
  • Renew a subscription
  • Restore a cancelled subscription
  • Cancel a subscription

In addition, if a user cancels a subscription, we will now trigger a cancellation survey to give developers feedback as to why the user is cancelling. Currently you can see the data from the cancellation survey by querying our server side API.

The new subscriptions center also has a "Get Started" link in the empty state that lets users discover subscription apps through curated and localized collections.

With the launch of the subscriptions center, we're also launching new deep links you can use to direct your users to manage their subscriptions from your app, over email or via the web. To implement, use the package name and SKU to construct the deep link, and then add the deep link as a button or link from anywhere in your app. View the Android Developers website for more information.

More control for you

In addition to creating a better experience for users, we're also rolling out new tools that give you more flexibility in managing your business. One of the features we've heard requested most is price changes. Coming soon, you can easily ask users to accept a price change via the Google Play Console without having to set up a completely new SKU. Google Play will notify users of the change via emails, push notifications and in-app messaging, and if by renewal date the user hasn't agreed, we'll cancel their subscription. Sign up here if you are interested in participating in the early access program.

Other features we launched at I/O that help you better manage your subscription business include the ability to:

This is in addition to faster test renewals and flexible intro pricing we announced earlier this year.

To easily implement all of these, make sure you are using the Google Play Billing Library, which launched version 1.1 at I/O. The billing library is an abstraction layer on top of the AIDL file, and API updates are automatically picked up when you update your build dependency file the next time you compile your app. Price changes and upgrade/downgrade with the same expiration date are only available through the billing library. This will be the case for future launches as well.

Better for everyone

We strongly believe that by building a great user experience, we build a high quality subscriber base. And by giving you tools and insights to better manage your business, you have the flexibility to do what is best for your business and your customers.

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Congratulations to the winners of the Google Play Indie Games Contest 2017 in Europe

Posted by Adriana Puchianu, Developer Marketing Google Play

We have just wrapped up the second edition of the Google Play Indie Games Contest in Europe! The iconic Saatchi Gallery in London welcomed 20 developers, from 12 countries, who showcased their games to the audience of gamers, industry experts, and journalists.

The finalists' games were on show to the public, who spent three hours trying out their games and voting for their favourites, alongside the Google Play team. The top 10 finalists were then selected, and went on to pitch their games, and compete for the big prizes in front of our jury.

Please join us in congratulating the winners! They will be bringing home a well-deserved diploma, along with a prize package that will help them reach more gamers worldwide; including premium placement on the Google Play Store, marketing campaigns of up to 100,000 EUR and influencer campaigns of up to 50,000 EUR, the latest Google hardware, tickets to Google I/O, and much more.

It's really inspiring to see the excitement around this second edition, and great to see the new wave of indie games coming from Europe. We are already looking forward to playing the games that will be developed in 2018!

Check out the main winners and the other finalists on the Google Play Store!

Winner

Bury me, my love

Playdius

France

A reality-inspired interactive fiction designed for mobile phones. It tells the story of Nour, a Syrian woman trying to reach Europe in hope of a better life.

Runners up

Old Man's Journey

Broken Rules Interactive Media GmbH

Austria

A story game about life's precious moments, broken dreams, and changed plans.

Yellow

Bart Bonte

Belgium

A puzzle game for you! A love letter to a marvelous colour and to the little wonder called touchscreens. Warning: very yellow!

The other games that have made it into top 10 are:

Captain Tom Galactic Traveler

Picodongames

France

An open world platformer and space exploration game. Embark on an exploratory mission, discover planets, collect oxygen, play with gravity.

I Love Hue

Zut!

United Kingdom

A minimalist, ambient puzzle game influenced by mindfulness apps and abstract art. Players arrange shuffled mosaics of coloured tiles into perfectly ordered palettes.

Jodeo

Gamebra.in

Turkey

Jodeo is a 2D jelly critter. There's something it's curious about: what if 3D objects and 2D physics are in the same game? How can 2D objects interact with 3D objects?

Kami 2

State of Play

United Kingdom

The calming yet addictive puzzle game is back! With over 100 handcrafted puzzles, it takes you on a mind-twisting journey that combines logic and problem-solving.

Kenshō

FIFTYTWO

Russia

A tile sliding puzzle with a wonderful soundtrack. Mysterious things happen in a ruined room. Doors inside that room lead to different worlds and beautiful landscapes.

No More Buttons

Tommy Søreide Kjær

Norway

A hand-drawn platformer where the buttons are part of the environment.

The Big Journey

Catfishbox

Ukraine

Designed for kids and adults alike, this a beautiful, casual adventure. Tilt to roll around and explore a beautiful world with Mr. Whiskers.

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Join us for Google Developer Day at GDC 2018

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

We're hosting another Google Developer Day at this year's Game Developers Conference (GDC) on Monday, March 19th.

Join us for a full day, where we'll kick things off with a keynote to share our latest news for game developers, followed by three sessions focused on innovation & new platforms, pre-launch best practices, and strategies to improve performance post-launch. Each session will include mini-talks from different Google teams and developer partners sharing new tools, learnings and more.

We'll also have a booth in Moscone South, Wednesday (March 21) through Friday (March 23), offering three days of additional talks from many Google teams and a chance for you to ask the experts any of your questions. Stop by to hear talks, meet experts, and try out exciting demos. These events are part of the official Game Developers Conference and require a pass to attend.

Learn more about Google's activities throughout the week on our event site where you can sign up to stay informed. For those who can't make it in person, join the live stream starting at 10am PST on Monday, March 19th.

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Meet the finalists of the Google Play Indie Games Contest in Europe

Posted by Adriana Puchianu, Developer Marketing Google Play

Back in October we launched the 2nd edition of the Google Play Indie Games Contest in Europe, with the aim to identify, showcase and reward indie gaming talent from more than 30 countries. We were amazed by the innovation and creativity that indie developers from the region have to offer.

Selecting just 20 finalists has once again been a huge challenge. We had a lot of fun playing the games that will go on to showcase at the Saatchi Gallery on February 13th in London. Without further ado, we are happy to announce the Top 20 finalists of this year's edition. Congratulations to the finalists and thanks to everyone else who has entered the contest.

A Planet of Mine
Tuesday Quest
France

Bridge Constructor Portal
ClockStone Softwareentwicklung GmbH
Austria

Bury me, my Love
Playdius
France

Captain Tom Galactic Traveler
Picodongames
France

Core
FURYJAM
Russia

Flat Pack
Nitrome
United Kingdom

Fern Flower
Macaque
Poland

I Love Hue
Zut!
United Kingdom

Jodeo
Gamebra.in
Turkey

Kami 2
State of Play
United Kingdom

Kenshō
FIFTYTWO
Russia

No More Buttons
Tommy Søreide Kjær
Norway

Old Man's Journey
Broken Rules Interactive Media GmbH
Austria

Radium 2 | Ra²
Developster
Germany

The Big Journey
Catfishbox
Ukraine

The House of Da Vinci
Blue Brain Games, s.r.o.
Slovakia

The Office Quest
11Sheep
Israel

Unbalance
TVEE
Turkey

Undervault
Andriy Bychkovskyi
Ukraine

yellow
Bart Bonte
Belgium

Check out the prizes

All the 20 finalists are getting:

  • A paid trip to London to showcase their game at the Final held at Saatchi Gallery
  • Inclusion of their game on a promotional billboard in London for 1 month
  • Inclusion of their game in a dedicated Indie Games Contest collection on the Indie Corner for one month in more than 40 countries across EMEA
  • Two (2) tickets to attend a 2018 Playtime event, an invitation-only event for top apps and games developers on Google Play
  • One (1) Pixel 2 device

They will also have the chance to win more prizes at the final event.

Join the Google Play team and the finalists at the final event:

Anyone can now register to attend the final showcase event for free at the Saatchi Gallery in London on 13 February 2018. Come and play some great games and have fun with indie developers, industry experts, and the Google Play team.

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Android Excellence: Congratulations to the newly added apps and games

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

Kicking off the new year, we're excited to welcome our latest group of Android Excellence apps and games. These awardees represent some of the best experiences and top performing apps and games on the Play Store and can be found with other great selections on the Editors' Choice page.

If you're looking for some new apps, below are a few highlights.

  • EyeEm: A great photo editor app with a full suite of filters and tools to make your pictures shine. Learn style tips from their community and even sell your images through the EyeEm marketplace.
  • Musixmatch: Check out Musixmatch's updated app while learning the lyrics to all your favorite songs. The app is compatible with many of the top music streaming services and you can even follow along with your Android Wear device or on the big screen with Chromecast support.
  • ViewRanger: Plan your next hiking adventure by discovering new routes and trail guides with ViewRanger. Check out the Skyline feature using your phone's camera to identify over 9 million sites across the world through augmented reality.

Here are a few of our favorite new games joining the collection.

  • Fire Emblem Heroes: Nintendo's popular strategy-RPG franchise is now reimagined for mobile. Fight battles, develop your heroes' skills, and try various gameplay modes for hours of exciting gameplay.
  • Lumino City: Explore the charming papercraft style world in this award-winning puzzle adventure game. The beautiful scenery is all handcrafted.
  • Old Man's Journey: Gorgeous scenery, an immersive soundtrack, and deep emotion help you uncover the old man's life stories while you solve puzzles and shape the landscape to determine his future.

Congratulations to the newly added Android Excellence apps and games.

New Android Excellence apps New Android Excellence games
1tap

Acorns

Airbnb

Blink Health

Blinkist

Clue

Ditty

EyeEm

Fabulous

IFTTT

iReader

Journey

KKBOX

LinkedIn

Mobills: Budget Planner

Musixmatch

Shpock

Stocard

Video Editor

ViewRanger

YAZIO

YOP

Agent A

Bit Heroes

Bloons Supermonkey 2

Dancing Line

DEAD WARFARE: Zombie

Dragon Project

Fire Emblem Heroes

Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow

Idle Heroes

Last Day on Earth: Survival

Lords Mobile

Lumino City

Modern Combat Versus

Old Man's Journey

The Walking Dead No Man's Land

War Wings

Explore other great apps and games in the Editors' Choice section on Google Play and discover best practices to help you build quality apps and games for people to love.

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A look back at the most read Google Play posts on Medium in 2017

Posted by Sergejs Cuhrajs, Community Manager, Google Play

Earlier this year we launched the Google Play Apps & Games publication on Medium to help developers discover best practices and insights to grow successful apps and games businesses on Google Play. As we draw closer to the end of the year we thought it's a good time to revisit some of our most popular posts according to you – our readers.

It's clear that many of you are excited by the potential of new technology, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), and how it could enhance user interaction with your apps and games. You're also concerned with everyday issues including how to keep your APK size manageable, how to acquire new users, and how to monetize games without pushing away your players.

So without further adieu, here's the list of the top 10:

  1. Applying human-centered design to emerging technologies
    (by By Peter Hyer, Fabian Herrmann, and Kristin Kelly, 7 min read)
    VR, AR, and digital assistant present exciting opportunities for the future, but how can we ensure we're designing for what people really want?
  2. Shrinking APKs, growing installs
    (by Sam Tolomei, 6 min read)
    Smaller APK sizes correlate with higher install conversion rate on Google Play - we share tips for keeping your apps lean.
  3. Who plays mobile games?
    (by Allen Bevans, UX Researcher at Google, 6 min read)
    Four actionable insights for game developers based on our research into different player segments.
  4. Why the first ten minutes are crucial if you want to keep players coming back
    (by Adam Carpenter, 7 min read)
    How to analyze your retention data so you can keep players coming back again and again.
  5. Design your app for decision-making
    (by Jeni Fisher, 10 min read)
    Useful tips and strategies for encouraging desired user behavior in your apps. Also check out follow-up posts on boosting motivation through app rewards, and common pitfalls of persuasive app design.
  6. Predicting your app's monetization future
    (by Ignacio Monereo, 10 min read)
    Learn about predictive analytics and calculating your apps lifetime value (LTV) to gain practical insight into the future of your app. In the second part Ignacio shares how to calculate LTV based on five popular monetization models.
  7. Five tips to improve your games-as-a-service monetization
    (by Moonlit Beshimov, 9 min read)
    5 proven strategies to improve your game revenue without driving players away.
  8. An introduction to in-app A/B testing
    (by Gavin Kinghall Were, 13 min read)
    Learn how in-app A/B testing can drive insight into your app's future design and development, and maximise its performance.
  9. Taking the guesswork out of paid user acquisition
    (by David Yin, 8 min read)
    A simple tool to help you estimate lifetime value (LTV) of your users and what to spend to grow your audience.
  10. Rethinking interface assumptions in AR: selecting objects
    (by Aaron Cammarata, 8 min read)
    In this article for beginner AR developers we explore one of the most fundamental user interface actions: object selection.

Do you have suggestions for topics we should tackle in 2018? Let us know by tweeting with the hashtag #AskPlayDev and we'll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.

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Improving app security and performance on Google Play for years to come

Posted by Edward Cunningham, Product Manager, Android

[Edit: Updated post on Dec 21 to clarify that when the 64-bit requirement is introduced in August 2019, 32-bit support is not going away. Apps that include a 32-bit library just need to have a 64-bit version too.]

Google Play powers billions of app installs and updates annually. We relentlessly focus on security and performance to ensure everyone has a positive experience discovering and installing apps and games they love. Today we're giving Android developers a heads-up about three changes designed to support these goals, as well as explaining the reasons for each change, and how they will help make Android devices even more secure and performant for the long term.

  • In the second half of 2018, Play will require that new apps and app updates target a recent Android API level. This will be required for new apps in August 2018, and for updates to existing apps in November 2018. This is to ensure apps are built on the latest APIs optimized for security and performance.
  • In August 2019, Play will require that new apps and app updates with native libraries provide 64-bit versions in addition to their 32-bit versions.
  • Additionally, in early 2018, Play will start adding a small amount of security metadata on top of each APK to further verify app authenticity. You do not need to take any action for this change.

We deeply appreciate our developer ecosystem, and so hope this long advance notice is helpful in planning your app releases. We will continue to provide reminders and share developer resources as key dates approach to help you prepare.

Target API level requirement from late 2018

API behavior changes advance the security and privacy protections of Android – helping developers secure their apps and protecting people from malware. Here are a few such changes from recent platform versions:

  • Implicit intents for bindService() no longer supported (Android 5.0)
  • Runtime permissions (Android 6.0)
  • User-added CAs not trusted by default for secure connections (Android 7.0)
  • Apps can't access user accounts without explicit user approval (Android 8.0)

Many of these changes only apply to apps that explicitly declare their support for new API behaviors, through the targetSdkVersion manifest attribute. For example, only apps with a targetSdkVersion of 23 (the API level of Android 6.0) or higher give the user full control over what private data – such as contacts or location – the app can access via runtime permissions. Similarly, recent releases include user experience improvements that prevent apps from accidentally overusing resources like battery and memory; background execution limits is a good example of this type of improvement.

In order to provide users with the best Android experience possible, the Google Play Console will require that apps target a recent API level:

  • August 2018: New apps required to target API level 26 (Android 8.0) or higher.
  • November 2018: Updates to existing apps required to target API level 26 or higher.
  • 2019 onwards: Each year the targetSdkVersion requirement will advance. Within one year following each Android dessert release, new apps and app updates will need to target the corresponding API level or higher.

Existing apps that are not receiving updates are unaffected. Developers remain free to use a minSdkVersion of their choice, so there is no change to your ability to build apps for older Android versions. We encourage developers to provide backwards compatibility as far as reasonably possible. Future Android versions will also restrict apps that don't target a recent API level and adversely impact performance or security. We want to proactively reduce fragmentation in the app ecosystem and ensure apps are secure and performant while providing developers with a long window and plenty of notice in order to plan ahead.

This year we released Android Oreo, the most secure and best performing version of Android yet, and we introduced Project Treble to help the latest releases reach devices faster. Get started building apps that target Android 8.1 Oreo today.

64-bit support requirement in 2019

Platform support for 64-bit architectures was introduced in Android 5.0. Today, over 40% of Android devices coming online have 64-bit support, while still maintaining 32-bit compatibility. For apps that use native libraries, 64-bit code typically offers significantly better performance, with additional registers and new instructions.

In anticipation of future Android devices that support 64-bit code only, the Play Console will require that new apps and app updates with native libraries provide 64-bit versions in addition to their 32-bit versions. This can be within a single APK or as one of the multiple APKs published.

We are not removing 32-bit support. Google Play will continue to support 32-bit apps and devices. Apps that do not include native code are unaffected.

This change will come into effect in August 2019. We're providing advance notice today to allow plenty of time for developers who don't yet support 64-bit to plan the transition. Stay tuned for a future post in which we'll take an in-depth look at the performance benefits of 64-bit native libraries on Android, and check out the CPUs and Architectures guide of the NDK for more info.

Security metadata in early 2018

Next year we'll begin adding a small amount of security metadata on top of each APK to verify that it was officially distributed by Google Play. Often when you buy a physical product, you'll find an official label or a badge which signifies the product's authenticity. The metadata we're adding to APKs is like a Play badge of authenticity for your Android app.

No action is needed by developers or users. We'll adjust Play's maximum APK size to take into account the small metadata addition, which is inserted into the APK Signing Block and does not alter the functionality of your app. In addition to enhancing the integrity of Play's mobile app ecosystem, this metadata will enable new distribution opportunities for developers in the future and help more people keep their apps up to date.

Looking ahead

2017 has been a fantastic year for developers who have seen growth and success on Google Play. We've been hard at work on features (including those announced at I/O 2017 and at Playtime) to help you improve your app quality and business performance. With these features and the upcoming updates, we hope to see the Android and Play ecosystem continue to thrive in 2018 and beyond.

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Google Play’s Indie Games Contest is back in Europe. Enter now

Posted by Adriana Puchianu, Developer Marketing Google Play

Following last year's success, today we're announcing the second annual Google Play Indie Games Contest in Europe, expanding to more countries and bigger prizes. The contest rewards your passion, creativity and innovation, and provides support to help bring your game to more people.

Prizes for the finalists and winners

  • A trip to London to showcase your game at the Saatchi Gallery
  • Paid digital marketing campaigns worth up to 100,000 EUR
  • Influencer campaigns worth up to 50,000 EUR
  • Premium placements on Google Play
  • Promotion on Android and Google Play marketing channels
  • Tickets to Google I/O 2018 and other top industry events
  • Latest Google hardware
  • Special prizes for the best Unity games


How to enter the contest

If you're based in one of the 28 eligible countries, have 30 or less full time employees, and published a new game on Google Play after 1 January 2017, you may now be eligible to enter the contest. If you're planning on publishing a new game soon, you can also enter by submitting a private beta. Check out all the details in the terms and conditions. Submissions close on 31 December 2017.

Up to 20 finalists will showcase their games at an open event at the Saatchi Gallery in London on the 13th February 2018. At the event, the top 10 will be selected by the event attendees and the Google Play team. The top 10 will then pitch to the jury of industry experts, from which the final winner and runners up will be selected.

Come along to the final event

Anyone can register to attend the final showcase event at the Saatchi Gallery in London on 13 February 2018. Play some great indie games and have fun with indie developers,industry experts, and the Google Play team.

Enter now

Visit the contest site to find out more and enter the Indie Games Contest now.

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Fight global hunger with your favorite apps and games on Google Play

Editor's note: Cross-post from The Keyword. If you’re a developer interested in supporting a fundraising cause within your title or if you have a social impact app, let us know

Posted by Maxim Mai, Partner Development Manager, Google Play

We grow enough food to feed everyone on the planet. Yet 815 million people–one in nine—still go to bed on an empty stomach every day.

On October 16, people from around the world come together for World Food Day, with the goal to promote awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to advocate for food security and nutritious diets for all.

To raise funds and awareness for this cause, Google Play has joined forces with 12 popular apps and games to create the Apps and Games Against Hunger collection available in North and Latin America.

From now until October 21, 100% of revenue from designated in-app purchases made in Google Play's Apps and Games Against Hunger collection will be donated to World Food Program USA.

World Food Program USA supports the mission of the UN World Food Programme, the leading agency fighting hunger, by mobilizing individuals, lawmakers and businesses in the U.S. to advance the global movement to end hunger, feeding families in need around the world.

These are the 12 global leading apps and games taking part in this special fundraising collection on Google Play:

ShareTheMeal–Help children

Peak–Brain Games & Training

Dragon City

Cooking Fever

Animation Throwdown: TQFC

Legendary: Game of Heroes

My Cafe: Recipes & Stories - World Cooking Game

TRANSFORMERS: Forged to Fight

Rodeo Stampede: Sky Zoo Safari

Jurassic World™: The Game

MARVEL Contest of Champions

Sling Kong

Thank you to all our users and developers for supporting World Food Day.

Android Excellence: congratulations to the new apps and games for Fall 2017

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

Android Excellence recognizes some of the highest quality apps and games on Google Play. With a strong focus on great design, an engaging user experience, and strong app performance, this set of apps and games show the diversity of content on Google Play. Whether you're trying to better manage personal finances with Money Lover or want to experience the thrill of stunt-racing with stunning graphics and real-time challenges in Asphalt 8, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

One new awardee is Bring!, a simple-to-use app that helps manage your grocery lists. Use the existing catalog of items or add your own product photos, then share your lists and message in-app to let others know when it's time to shop. If you're looking for a new game to play, Karma. Incarnation 1. is a "wonderfully weird, puzzle-filled indie adventure game." With beautiful hand-drawn art, you guide the story's hero through moments of humor and challenge to be reunited with his love.

Congratulations to the new Android Excellence apps and games for Fall 2017.

New Android Excellence apps New Android Excellence games
Agoda Asphalt 8
AlarmMon Bubble Witch 3 Saga
Bring! Castle Creeps
CastBox Crab War
Email by Edison Crash of Cars
Eve Dan the Man
Fotor Dawn of Titans
Mint Dream Defense
Money Lover Iron Marines
Onefootball Karma. Incarnation 1.
Robinhood Postknight
Viki Sky Force Reloaded
Zombie Age 3

Explore other great apps and games in the Editors’ Choice section on Google Play.

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Announcing the Winners from the Indie Games Festival in San Francisco

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

At the Google Play Indie Games Festival over the weekend, we welcomed hundreds of attendees to try out and enjoy a diverse range of amazing games from the indie community. The competition was very tough, and in the end, we recognized three winners:

We'd also like to congratulate the rest of the Top 10 developers and all of the finalists who shared their games to make for such a fun and exciting event. Check out the great collection of games on Google Play.

Here are the other seven games that rounded out the Top 10:

The day started with time for attendees to play the 20 finalists' games. They experienced different genres and styles of gameplay and were encouraged to talk with the developers about their work and what it's like to make mobile games for a living. The event brought together kids, adults, gaming enthusiasts and non-gamers, and was a great representation of the fun experiences mobile games create.

In the afternoon, attendees voted for their favorites and the Top 10 moved on to the presentation round. These developers had three minutes to deliver their best pitch to the panel of judges. After the judges voted, results were in and the three winners and seven runners up were named.

If you like indie games and want to keep up with our favorite indie picks, visit the Indie Corner on Google Play.

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Helping indie developers get discovered on Google Play

Posted by Adriana Puchianu, Google Play Developer Marketing

There are increasing growth opportunities for indie game developers, but being one can still feel daunting in today's crowded gaming industry. We've been working hard to help indie developers find an audience and to recognize them for their creativity and innovation. We launched the Indie Corner as a destination for exciting new games along with longstanding indie masterpieces. Since launch, more than 380 games have been featured. Earlier this year, we launched Android Excellence which showcases apps and games that deliver incredible user experiences on Android, while providing another opportunity to be discovered on Google Play.

We've also held several indie games contests across the globe, giving indies the chance to showcase their games and find new audiences. In April, we selected the winner of the second Indie Games Festival in South Korea and we recently announced the top 20 finalists of this year's San Francisco event. Come and see the finalists in person on September 23rd, it's free to attend and open to the public. Soon we'll be bringing back the second Indie Games Contest in Europe too.

Watch François Alliot, the developer of Reigns, an indie game showcased in Android Excellence and the winner of last year's Indie Games Contest in Europe, share how he built a successful games business in the video below.

And, finally, check out our recent Q&A with Spry Fox, makers of the popular game Alphabear, to learn more about what it’s like to be an indie game developer.

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Optimize your Android apps for Chromebooks

Posted by Cheryl Lindo Jones, Mobile App Solutions Consultant, Google Play

As more Chromebooks are enabled with Google Play, now is a great time to optimize your Android app for Chromebooks to reach a larger audience. The changes made to optimize for large screens will benefit mobile devices that are able to project to desktop monitors, like the Samsung Galaxy S8. The current list of Chromebooks that can access the Play Store continues to grow.

There are several differences to consider when optimizing your Android app or game for Chromebooks:

  • Larger screen sizes and higher resolutions
  • Multi-window and resizable-window support
  • Different hardware input methods: keyboard, trackpad, mouse, stylus
  • Convertible Chromebooks enabling use in laptop and tablet modes

Chromebook users can change screen resolutions, switch between various input methods, and convert from laptop to tablet mode at any time, so Android apps and games should handle all of these situations gracefully.

Discoverability on Google Play

If Android apps or games require hardware not available in a Chromebook (like cellular capability or GPS), those titles will not show up on Google Play for Chromebook users, similar to Play on Android tablets. Developers should maximize discoverability on Google Play by doing the following:

Set requested permissions and uses-features in the manifest to ensure compatibility with Chromebooks. Not all Chromebooks will have touchscreens, GPS, or rear-facing cameras which are typical for smartphones. Update the manifest so that sensors and hardware not commonly found on Chromebooks are not required. Example:

<uses-feature android:name="android.hardware.touchscreen"
    android:required="false" />

Additionally, to educate Chromebook users on any Chrome OS-specific features that have been implemented, for example supporting additional input methods like keyboard, trackpad, and stylus, or supporting large, high-resolution screens with a responsive layout, developers should update the app description on Google Play. It would also be useful to provide screenshots showcasing how well the app or game works on the larger screen, or how the title works on a Chromebook specifically.

Optimizing functionality

While most apps and games already work fairly well on Chromebooks without any changes, it is still a good idea to explore how to provide an optimized, consistent experience for Chromebook users.

Large screens and resizable windows

Chromebook users will be more inclined to multitask, opening multiple apps and/or games at once, taking advantage of the screen size, and operating in a manner consistent with a desktop or laptop form factor. Unlike on Android phones, they can also change the screen resolution to fit more onto the screen, or enlarge the fonts, UI, and graphics, if needed. Multi-window support and fully resizable window support are key for this usage. Graphics, fonts, layout, and touch targets should be adjusted accordingly as the screen resolution and orientation changes.

It is also important to note that just because an app or game window is not in focus, it does not mean that it is not visible. For example, if a video app is open in an inactive window, it should continue to play content "in the background" because it could still be visible along side another app window. To fully support multi-window usage in this case, pause video in onStop(), and resume in onStart().

Targeting Android N (API level 24 and higher) will signal to the Chrome OS window manager that compatibility restrictions should not be used. This allows for more flexibility and control on the developer's part for supporting window resizing.

The system will handle window management best if Android N is targeted, but for pre-N API support, windows can be toggled between either a default size selected at app launch, or a full-screen mode with either the window bar visible, or with window UI hidden in immersive full-screen mode.

When handling different windowing modes, it is important to know that the window area for an app or game will be offset by the presence or absence of the window control bar. The app should not assume that the activity will always be at (0,0) in the window. Adjust the layout and touch targets accordingly. It is somewhat common to see apps or games become unresponsive after a window resize or orientation change because it did not gracefully handle the presence of the window control bar, or the higher resolution settings of a Chromebook screen.

Orientation support

Because of the laptop form-factor, Chromebook users expect landscape to be the default orientation for apps on Chromebooks. However, Android apps often assume that portrait is the default orientation to support, due to the typical way users interact with their smartphones. To offer flexibility to users, it is highly recommended to support both portrait and landscape orientations. Some Chromebooks are convertible, so users can change between laptop and tablet modes at will, switching between portrait and landscape orientation, according to what feels comfortable for a given use case.

Most importantly, if possible, do not require a restart if the orientation or window size changes. If a user is in the process of filling out a form, creating or editing some content, or in the middle of a level in a game and loses progress because of an window change -- intentional or not -- it would be a poor user experience.

Developers can monitor window configuration changes using onConfigurationChanged() and dynamically handle those changes by adding this line to the activity's manifest:

android:configChanges="screenSize|smallestScreenSize|orientation|screenLayout".

If it is absolutely necessary to require a restart upon changes to the window, at least restore state by using the onSaveInstanceState() method so that work or state is not lost.

Additionally, it is important to be consistent with the app's orientation as the user is navigating through activities. Currently, the system forces Android apps to follow the orientation of the root activity to help maintain consistency. However, this may result in a situation where, perhaps an app starts out in landscape orientation, and a login screen normally laid out for portrait orientation pops up, and now does not look optimized due to an unresponsive layout. Also, it is still possible to have a case where a springboard activity starts out in an orientation that is different from the primary orientation of the app. Please keep these possible scenarios in mind when designing the layout for activities.

Finally, developers should be aware of the differences in handling cameras and orientation on Chromebooks. Obviously, Android phones have front-facing and rear-facing cameras that are situated at the top of a portrait-oriented screen. The front-facing cameras on Chromebooks are situated at the top of a landscape-oriented screen. Many Chromebooks do not have rear-facing cameras. If an app requires a camera, it would be best to use android.hardware.camera.any to access the front-facing camera, if a rear-facing one is not available. Again, developers should target Android N and, if possible allow the app to be resizable so that the system can take care of properly orienting the camera previews.

Supporting multiple input methods

Chromebook users are used to interacting with webpages and apps using a keyboard and trackpad. Effectively supporting these two input methods for an Android app means:

  • Supporting hotkeys for commands that a desktop app user may be familiar with
  • Using arrow and tab keys and a trackpad to navigate an activity
  • Allowing hover and opening context menus
  • Supporting other trackpad gestures to enhance productivity in desktop/laptop mode

Something as simple as hitting return to send text in a messaging app, or allowing a user to navigate fields by hitting the tab key will make an app feel more efficient and cohesive on a Chromebook.

While there is a compatibility mode for Chrome OS to emulate touchscreen scrolling and other touch events, it would be best to optimize an Android app by declaring

<uses-feature
    android:name="android.hardware.type.pc"
    android:required="false" />

in the manifest to disable compatibility mode in order to further define custom support for keyboard and trackpad.

Similarly, the system can guess at giving focus to the right views when navigating via the tab or arrow keys on a keyboard. But for best performance, specify how keyboard navigation should be handled in the activity manifest using the android:nextFocusForward attribute for tab navigation, and android:nextFocusUp, android:nextFocusDown, android:nextFocusLeft, android:nextFocusRight attributes for arrow key navigation.

On a related note, some Chromebooks do not have touchscreens, therefore well-optimized Android apps on Chrome should not assume the user can perform typical swipe and multi-touch tap gestures to navigate through an app or game. If primary functionality cannot be performed using only a keyboard or trackpad, the user experience will be severely impacted on non-touchscreen Chromebooks. Try to "translate" existing touchscreen tap and swipe gestures into something that can be easily done on a trackpad or using the keyboard.

Newer Chromebooks are gaining stylus support, allowing for richer interactions for sketchbook and note-taking apps, photo editors, games, and more. Developers are encouraged to use available APIs to support pressure-sensitivity, tilt, and eraser inputs. To enable users to comfortably rest their hands on the screen while writing, drawing, or playing games with the stylus, support palm rejection. The system will attempt to ignore input from a user's resting palm, but in case such erroneous touch events are registered, Android apps should gracefully handle ACTION_CANCEL events to erase the erroneous inputs.

By supporting all of these additional input methods, users will be able to take full advantage of the laptop mode for Chromebooks to work more efficiently, or to be more creative.

Learn more

While a lot was covered in this article, we have additional resources for you to learn more about optimizing their apps and games for Chromebooks. Read our Medium post with tips to get your app running great on Chromebooks and watch our session at Google I/O 2017, Android Apps for Chromebooks and Large Screen Devices. There is also training material on the Android developers website for building apps for Chrome OS. If you have any questions, reach out to the Android developer community and post with the hashtag #AndroidAppsOnChromeOS.

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Android Developer Story: Zalando increases installs and revenue by focusing on app quality

Posted by Adriana Puchianu

Based in Berlin, Zalando is Europe's leading online fashion platform. With more than 70% of its traffic now coming from mobile, the company has invested a lot in improving the quality of its app to provide a good user experience. Investing in bridging the online and the offline worlds, as well as providing a seamless cross-platform experience, has had positive results on their user engagement and revenue. Using features like A/B testing, the pre-launch report and the new release dashboard from the Google Play Console, Zalando saw a 6% increase in installs and a 15% increase in the users' lifetime value.

Watch Rushil Dave, Senior Product Specialist and Meritxell Rivera, Android Developer discuss how the company has improved user experience and key revenue and engagement metrics by investing in app quality for their Zalando app.

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Announcing the 20 finalists and open registration for the Indie Games Festival in San Francisco

Posted by Kacey Fahey, Developer Marketing, Google Play

With so many great mobile games launching this year, we saw a huge amount of interest from indie developers to showcase their art at the Google Play Indie Games Festival in San Francisco next month. While it was a tough selection process, we're excited to announce the 20 finalists, as well as our esteemed judging panel. Fans will be able to play the new and un-released indie games in a fun festival atmosphere where they can also meet the creators themselves. To attend and learn more about the event, register now for free at g.co/play/sfindiegamesfest2017.

So how did we choose the 20 finalists? We powered up our phones, put our game-faces on, and looked for games that not only met the festival requirements, but also stood out with their overall design, fun, and quality. These are the 20 finalists who will be joining us at the festival to demo their games.

Meet the finalists

7 Pin Pool
SPG Inc
Age of Rivals
Roboto Games
Brave Hand
Heart Shaped Games
(game not yet released)
Covens
Raincrow Studios, LLC
Crashy Cars
pixelbizarre
Dokudo
Sense of Wonder
Flipping Legend
Hiding Spot
Gladiator Rising
Happii Gamer Studio
Jigsaw Story
Happy Square Studio Inc
Loteria Latin Bingo
Gorilla Bean Games
Maruta Escape
Busan Sanai Games
(game not yet released)
NoStranger
Black Vein Productions
Slayaway Camp
Blue Wizard Digital
Space Tunnel
Spacewave Studios
Star Vikings Forever
Akupara Games
Storm Wars
Zom.bio
Tiny Bubbles
Pine Street Codeworks
(game not yet released)
Topsoil
Nico Prins

In addition to playing these games and meeting the developers who made them, fans will have a chance to vote for their favorites throughout the festival. The Top 10 will then move on to present a short pitch in pursuit of going home as one of the three overall festival winners. The winners will be chosen by this year's panel of judges representing a diverse lineup of gaming expertise.

  • Alex the Gamerette, YouTube Creator
  • Lina Chen, Co-founder & CEO of Nix Hydra
  • Emily Greer, CEO of Kongregate
  • Jamil Moledina, Games Strategic Lead, Google
  • Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer for GamesBeat
  • Sarah Thomson, BD Lead, Indie Games, Google Play

Emceeing this year's event is J.D. Witherspoon, aka runJDrun. No stranger to gaming, YouTuber/actor/comedian, J.D. plays a wide array of games and frequently uploads gaming, vlog, and comedy content to his channels.

If you want to try out these games and celebrate the indie community, learn more about the event and register at g.co/play/sfindiegamesfest2017.

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How to improve app design for Wear 2.0

Posted by Steven Tepper, App Quality Consultant, Google Play

Wear 2.0 launched back in February with added support for new hardware features in addition to adopting new Material Design themes, guidelines, and a simpler vertical UI pattern. It also introduces a complications API, making it easier for apps to provide data to watch faces, and watch faces to incorporate external data. The final big update was that, apps targeting Wear 2.0 now have the ability to operate in a standalone mode, without needing a connection to a companion app on the phone.

There are a few design considerations in relation to navigation, notifications, the complications API, and the standalone functionality to help you better optimize for Wear 2.0 devices:

Navigation

  1. Use the WearableDrawerLayout navigation drawer for simple and infrequent navigation: Simple navigation includes tasks such as accessing app settings, switching users or logging out. You can implement this on Wear 2.0 to switch between different views or sections of the app via a swipe down from the top of the screen, or an action drawer can be set up for context-specific actions when swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
  2. Present a navigation drawer as a single-page drawer to enable users to navigate views quickly: A navigation drawer can be presented as either a multi-page or single-page drawer. The single-page layout is useful for when the user is expected to navigate quickly between 7 or less views of the app. Remember that if the app is using a single-page drawer, the iconography should be clear and understandable as there will not be any sort of text labeling in this layout. If there are more than 7 views to navigate to or the views are not easily represented by icons, you should instead use the multi-page drawer layout.
  3. Use multiple app launchers if your app has two or three discrete functions: For example, if your app supports both activity tracking—with various options, actions, and views—and historical analysis and management of tracked activities, you can use multiple app launchers to handle these tasks. Alternatively, if your app has a simple home screen, these features could be placed in line, at the bottom of the screen.
  4. Use peeking at the top of the action drawer to provide quick access to the primary action: If there is no primary action associated with the view, override the default behavior and force an overflow button to peek instead, exposing all actions at the bottom of a view, when tapped.

Ensure that for devices using Wear 2.0, your app takes advantage of these new UI patterns to provide a consistent user experience. Check out more training resources for Wear Navigation and Actions and the Material Design specifications for Navigation and Action Drawers.

Notifications

Wear 2.0 uses a simpler vertical navigation pattern, removing the horizontal swiping gesture to present actions for a notification. Notification actions are now presented as a single primary action (if applicable) at the bottom of a notification. If there is no primary action, expanding the notification will present options in a single, vertically scrollable view.

Notifications will work without needing many changes on both 1.x and 2.0 devices, but appear quite different:

When creating apps for Wear 2.0 devices, improve the user experience with notifications by applying the following best practices:

  1. Support expandable notifications: Use BigTextStyle so that users can see more content on their watch.
  2. Use the collapsed view of the notification (if applicable): Add the primary action for your notification to the collapsed view of the notification using setContentIntent(), where appropriate.
  3. For messaging apps, use the MessagingStyle: Provide a rich chat app-like experience in the expanded notification using this style.
  4. Update user directions which are specific to Wear 1.0: Remove any text guiding users to act on a card by swiping horizontally (the Wear 1.x pattern).
  5. Enhancing notifications to use inline actions: This allows users to do things without needing tap to see the expanded notification details. Actions for messaging notifications can use several different input methods including Smart Reply presets, voice, and keyboard input. Take advantage of these features to provide added functionality and delight users.

To learn more about adding wearable features to notifications.

Complications

The complications API in Wear 2.0 makes it much easier for watch face developers and third-party data providers to surface important information users want, at a glance. Watch faces that support the API can be configured to use any of the data providers that have been installed on the watch while maintaining complete control over their appearance. Apps supporting the complication API allow the app's data to be accessible on any watch faces that support complications. These complications can be displayed in a variety of forms (short text, icon, ranged value, long text, small image, and large image) depending on what the data provider has configured and how much space has been allocated on the watch face.

To ensure that complications fit the overall design of the watch face and properly handle their data type, when adding complication support we recommend watch face makers should:

  1. Use the TextRenderer class found in the Wear 2.0 SDK: This allows the text within complications to be adjusted to their bounds by shrinking the text, dynamically supporting line breaks or ellipsizing strings when they exceed the bounds of a text-based complication.
  2. Use the ComplicationDrawable class to set the background color, shape, border, and font options for the complications: This gives complete control of how the complication is rendered to the watch face.
  3. Design the watch face to provide a way for users to configure or adjust complications on the watch face through a settings menu: To learn how to construct these settings see the watch face sample on GitHub.
  4. Use the data provider test suite app to feed dummy data to the watch face complications: This will enable you to verify that all of the complications render properly and have fonts formatted for their bounds.
  5. As a complication data provider, expose relevant data by using the ComplicationProviderService: Simply define and configure what types of ComplicationData the app can provide for complications.

Standalone functionality on Wear devices

  1. Make sure your app is able to handle itself if there is no companion app installed when using the android.hardware.type.watch hardware feature flag: Using this feature enables your app to become searchable and installable directly on Wear devices without needing to install a companion phone app, so ensure your app can handle itself to avoid a confusing or broken user experience.
  2. Ensure your wearable app doesn't rely on the phone app for sign-in/authentication or primary functionality: When requiring complicated input for authentication (for example, password entry) your wearable app can point to the companion phone, but should rely on web UI for account/password entry rather than an app.
  3. Where a companion app must be present on a phone to support your app in some other way, the app should use the CapabilityApi: This should be used to properly direct users to the Play Store listing on their companion device to install the missing app. Otherwise, the app should function on its own, using the Wear built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, or other connectivity functions.
  4. Include wording about any companion app requirements or briefly mention how your Wear app should function within the Play Store listing description: This will help set expectations and guide users to install the correct apps for the best possible experience.
  5. Incorporate the com.google.android.wearable.standalone flag in the manifest if your Wearable app can function without any phone companion interaction: This flag indicates that the wearable app can be installed and will fully function when not paired to an Android or iOS companion phone.

Though a lot was covered here, there are additional resources you can use to ensure that your apps or games are optimized and use the latest patterns and functionality on Wear. Be sure to review the quality guidelines and check out the developer training documentation to learn more best practices for wearable app development and wearable app design in order to build quality apps for Wear.

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Start on Android and succeed on Google Play

Posted by Karolis Balciunas, VC & Startups Business Development, Google Play

Early Access was launched at Google I/O 2016 as a destination on Google Play for beta app and game titles still in development, and to attract early adopters willing to test those titles. The results speak for themselves. The program has helped over 350 developers launch their titles and generated over 40M beta installs for their apps and games during just the short window before their public availability on the Play Store. More importantly, the average rating for titles that have been through Early Access is 4.3☆ once in production, putting them in a strong position to be favored in search and discovery on Google Play.

Early Access also generates positive awareness for new titles. Alumni like Simple Habit and Digit were chosen as finalists in the "Standout Startup" category at the Google Play Awards this year. Omnidrone's game Titan Brawl became the first game to reach 1M testers. Hear more about their experience in the video below.

Early Access and our work with the venture capital community has taught us a lot about successful startups. We know you seek rapid iteration towards product-market fit and are thirsty for the same kind of powerful testing, analytics, and user feedback that Google's own product teams depend on to launch successful products. When we know about your startup's plans well in advance of your launch date, we can impact your trajectory by supporting you through this understood process of iterative improvement.

Start on Android

Earlier this year we launched Start on Android to identify the highest potential Android startups earlier in their lifecycle and provide tools, perks, and guidance for those who qualify. We've developed five components that have proven to be most impactful:

  1. Early Access participation enabling developers to recruit beta testers and respond to their feedback before it impacts an app's rating on the Play Store.
  2. Pre-launch user interface and user experience reviews from the Play editorial team to help optimize onboarding experiences, material design implementation, business model execution, and user engagement.
  3. Access to Google perks like the Google Cloud Platform's Spark Package which includes $20K in Google Cloud and Firebase credits, free 12 months of G Suite for up to 10 employees, and other financial incentives.
  4. Opportunities to participate in Google Play and other Google teams' programs and special events including Google Cloud Platform, Google for Entrepreneurs, and Launchpad.
  5. Guidance in the form of videos and content on startup best practices available to all at StartonAndroid.com.

We are just getting started

We've already seen a lot of developer interest and received hundreds of public applications and referrals from venture capitalists and other startup influencers. Below are a few accepted startups:

  • Socratic - A Spark Capital backed company that allows students to solve math problems by snapping a photo with their camera and using computer vision to return relevant answers and related concepts and video.
  • Astro - A Redpoint portfolio company that layers AI on top of your email to help intelligently manage your inbox.
  • Peanut - A Tinder-like app for connecting moms, funded by NEA and Felix Capital.
  • Gyroscope - A startup working on an "operating system for the human body".
  • Empower - An exciting new money management app backed by Sequoia Capital, coming soon to Android.

We are incredibly proud of every developer we work with and grateful to our friends within VC firms and the wider community who bring exciting new startups to our attention.

Get in touch with us

If you would like to be part of Start on Android, complete the form at StartonAndroid.com. We're looking for developers who are planning to launch on Android soon, or have done so in the past 6 months.

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500 million devices now supported for Android Instant Apps

Posted by Jonathan Karmel

Since our public launch at Google I/O this year, we've been hard at work expanding the number of supported devices and the availability of instant apps, so that users can run your apps instantly, without installation. We're excited to announce that 500 million Android users now have access to instant apps across countries where Google Play operates.

A number of Google Play apps and games businesses across a range of industries have already started building with instant apps. Following the launch of their instant apps, they have seen strong results in engagement, acquisition and retention.

Vimeo: WIth more than 50M creators and 240M viewers worldwide, Vimeo has built a platform whereby people can easily share videos with friends. The company wanted to implement Android Instant Apps to enable their audience to easily immerse themselves in content through a native app experience. Vimeo increased session duration by 130% with their instant app. Discover how Vimeo drove increased engagement with their instant app.
Jet: Based in the US, Jet provides a shopping platform, using a real-time savings engine to surface opportunities for customers to pay less. The company wanted to expand the reach of their existing app, and updated their app in order to support instant apps. Following the launch of their instant app, Jet found that their conversion rate increased by 27%. Learn about how Jet launched their instant app.
NYTimes Crosswords: The NYTimes Crosswords instant app provides users with crossword puzzles as printed in the New York Times daily newspaper. Their aim was to create a more native experience for their audience, increasing app engagement. Instant apps have 2x the number of sessions per user. Based on early results, they are also seeing more effective acquisition, conversion, and long term retention. Learn more about how NYTimes increased app sessions.
dotloop: dotloop is a real estate transaction platform which makes it easier for real estate professionals to interact with home buyers and sellers, and for them to be able to sign documents anytime, anywhere. Their aim for instant apps was to provide more users a native app experience for the signing process of documents. dotloop increased their key metric with a 62% increase in users who sign a document. Discover how dotloop supported Android Instant Apps and increased engagement.
Onefootball: Based in Berlin, the app provides news, live scores, fixtures, results, tables and stats for over 230 leagues and 15 languages. Onefootball built an instant app by reducing its APK size alongside other updates. The number of users who read news and share content increased 55% in their instant app. Find out more about how Onefootball increased engagement following their launch.
Realtor.com: A leading online real estate destination that attracts nearly 60 million unique visitors each month to its desktop and mobile platforms. Realtor.com enabled Android Instant Apps support by modularizing its 12 MB app into instant app modules. With Instant Apps, Realtor.com increased their key conversion metrics having doubled the number of leads per property listing details pageview. Find out how Realtor.com reduced its instant app APK size.

Learn more best practices for managing your download size with Android Instant Apps, and also visit g.co/instantapps for more information on building instant apps and get started today!

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Android Instant Apps: Best practices for managing download size

Posted by Dmitry Malykhanov, Developer Relations Partner, Google Play
Android Instant Apps provides rich, native experiences at the tap of a web link. People can experience your app without upfront installation, enabling a higher level and quality of engagement.
However, to provide comparable latency of loading a mobile webpage, an instant app needs to be lean and well structured, so it can be downloaded and run quickly in response to a URL tap. In light of that, we encourage that the binary loaded in response any entry-point URL is as small as possible, with a maximum of 4MB. The smaller the binaries, the faster the instant app will load and the smoother the user experience.
This document will propose best practices for managing the application structure and binary size to enable a smooth instant app experience. These practices will also benefit your installable app.

Refactoring your codebase

The biggest binary size benefit comes from refactoring your app into multiple feature modules. Even if your current size and feature set don't require multiple features, we recommend designing for it, so you can quickly add more features in the future without affecting the binary size of existing features. We also highly recommend having a unified modular codebase to produce both installable and instant application binaries, as this will reduce the burden of maintaining separate projects and code and provide a cleaner project structure across both. Based on the experience of our early access partners, we believe this will have the largest impact to the binary size at download. However, it also requires the most investment.
To get to that end, you can start with a single (base) module and then refactor code by moving relevant portions to feature module(s). Note that you do not need to worry about the binary size while developing your instant app, as the size limit does not apply for locally built binaries. You can also publish your binary through the Play Developers Console to the Development track (special track for quick deployment of your instant app during development), where the size limit is 10MB. [1, 2] The 4MB restriction is applied once your binary graduate out of the Development track.
Each feature module can have one (or more) entry points – activities – that correspond to a given URL. When splitting a single code base into multiple modules, you will have different entry points for different features, and the platform will load the relevant feature as needed. Remember, the total binary to be downloaded for any given entry point should be under 4MB, so the combined size of any feature module and the base module must be below 4MB.
It is advised to define the feature–activity–entry point mappings first, and then structure the refactoring effort towards reducing the binary size for each entrypoint..
Also consider how your libraries are included. If a specific feature module requires certain libraries they should be included in the feature module only, instead of being added in the base APK. This will reduce the size of the base module. For example, let's say you have an application that depends on libraries X, Y, and Z. Initially, you may pack all the libraries in the base module by placing all the dependencies in the base gradle.build file. But if only the code in the feature module requires library Z, it makes sense to move that dependency from the base module to the feature module.This works as long as no other feature modules depend on the same library. If multiple feature modules use the same library it definitely makes sense to keep it in the base module.

Lint checks

Many apps tend to acquire a lot of resources, and over a period of time, some of them are no longer used. Android Studio has useful built in lint check for unused resources. Press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+I (Cmd+Alt+Shift+I on Mac OS), type "unused resources" and start "Unused resources Android|Lint|Performance" inspection. It helps to reduce the size of the installable APK as well.

String resources

Similar to resources, pay attention to strings, not all of them may be in use, and typically the application size can be reduced significantly by removing unused string resources. If application supports multiple languages, you may want to reduce the number of localized resources, as it typically removes large chunks of the resources assets. This is especially important if the app supports only a few languages but uses AppCompat library, which includes messages in multiple languages. Use resConfig to select specific resources configurations only. Hint: typically you can use "auto" to restrict configurations pulled from third-party libraries to match the set of configurations defined in your project.

Switch to WebP

Significant reduction of the drawable resources size may be achieved by switching to WebP images instead of PNGs. Android Instant Apps supports all features of the WebP format (transparency, lossless, etc.) so there will be no loss in functionality. Keep in mind that application launcher icons must use PNG format, but it should not be a problem since projects normally keep those in mipmap- directories. If a backward compatible solution is required, you need to include the original PNG images in the APK module and it will override WebP resources automatically (main source set overrides all resources from AAR/feature module). [4]
Of course, going with vector drawables may let you save even more of the precious space, but using vector drawables will require a code change while the above mentioned trick with WebP images for the instant app and PNG images for the installable APK requires no code modifications.

Download assets at runtime

Finally, remember that technically there is no need to pack all the resources in the instant app APKs, as the application can download additional assets at run time. This approach also enables the app to download the required assets only. These modifications may require significant changes to the code base, but will also help you to reduce the size of the installable APK.
If shrinking resources does not bring your app feature modules size under the limit, it is time to look for the ways to reduce the code size.

Review native libraries

Some third-party libraries may include native code, which may not be used in the instant app at all. So the first step is to review the native libraries packaged within the APK and make sure the instant app has only those that are actually used. Remember to look into the compiled APK using APK Analyzer (Build -> APK Analyzer…) [5]

Review external libraries

Next review the list of all external libraries linked with the app's code. You may find some unexpected surprises courtesy of transitive dependencies. Transitive dependencies occur when the library your project relies upon depends on another library, which in turn may depend on yet another library. Sometimes those transitive dependencies may contain unexpected surprises such as libraries you do not need at all (i.e. a JSON processing library you never use in your code.) Please see "Excluding transitive dependencies" section in the Gradle User Guide for further details.
Android Studio has several useful tools for analyzing the external dependencies for the project. It always helps to start with the Project view:
The "Project" view shows a section called "External libraries", where you can see all the libraries used by the project including any transitive dependencies:
In order to further reduce the base feature size you may need to pay attention to the code dependencies and external libraries. Check the "Project" view and look for unused libraries that might be transitive dependencies the project does not need. Also look for libraries that provide the same functionality (e.g. multiple libraries for image loading/caching). [4]
You can also compare different builds with APK Analyzer tool, and it works with instant APKs, too.
Finally, review the list of transitive dependencies and exclude the ones you do not need. Use the following command to review the dependencies graph: gradle -q :MODULE:dependencies --configuration compile. Further details can be found in the Gradle documentation.

Other tips

Android Studio 3.0 includes the App Links Assistant tool, which can help to generate the necessary intent filters, and help in splitting the project into several modules. [3]
Once you got the instant app bundles under the size limit, it is the time to make sure the building process is up to date. Check that the application package and instant app APKs are signed using the "APK Signature Scheme v2". If you sign the APKs using the latest version of the SDK tools, everything should be done automatically. However, if you manually sign the build artifacts you need to avoid using jarsigner and switch to apksigner instead.
And a few useful tips for adapting the app's code to the instant runtime environment. Keep in mind that having a small branches of code for instant/installable applications, based on the InstantApps.isInstantApp(...), should be fine and typically does not make the source code unreadable (unless you abuse it, of course). Also, when using share intents make sure the code does not explicitly enumerate applications installed on the device, instant app security model does not allow that. Simply use regular Intent.createChooser() to present the list of all possible actions to the user.
The level of effort of developing an instant app for an existing Android application varies across developers and is heavily dependent on how your application is organized today. For some, it will be easy as your project is already organized as multiple modules. However, for some, the focus will be on reducing the code and resource assets size, and we have introduced tools and Android platform features above to help you with that.

Hear from other developers using Android Instant Apps

Finally, check out these great posts by developers that have already built an instant app:
Visit the Android Developers website to get started with Android Instant Apps and check out more instant apps success stories from other developers.

Build a subscriptions business on Google Play with these new features and best practices

Posted by Tom Grinsted, Product Manager

Subscriptions can be a sustainable source of revenue, allowing you to invest in your long-term business growth with confidence. Subscription apps are growing rapidly on Google Play; the number of subscribers doubled in the last year and spend on subscriptions has increased 10-times over the past three years. To help the growing number of subscription businesses we're seeing, we introduced the subscriptions dashboard in the Google Play Console at I/O 2017. Today, we're adding three new subscription reports covering acquisition, retention, and cancellations to help you understand your data and make informed business decisions. Find information below on the new features, our updated best practices to help you grow your subscriptions business, and stories from other developers succeeding on Google Play.

New subscription reports now available in the Google Play Console

Three new subscription reports in the Google Play Console

The acquisition report enables you to evaluate different acquisition channels, including Adwords and UTM-tagged campaigns. This can help you identify which channels and campaigns are the most successful in acquiring new subscribers.

The retention report displays the lifetime retention of a customized cohort of your subscribers. It allows you to easily compare different subscription products, plots key events such as the end of a free trial, and provides forecasts to enable you to make decisions faster.

Finally, the cancellations report. This detailed cancellation data shows when a user cancels, either voluntarily (such as when they choose to cancel) or involuntarily (for example, when there is payment failure). You can also see whether the cancellation was accompanied by the person uninstalling.

We're continually working to improve the Google Play Console. If you have ideas or feedback on how we can improve the subscriptions features, please let us know.

Take advantage of the new Google Play Billing Library

To benefit from these features, you need to be using Google Play Billing as the payment method for subscriptions in your app. Implementing Play Billing is easy with the new Google Play Billing Library. We've also updated Play Billing so the billing permission will be enforced when the buyer tries to initiate a purchase rather than when you publish your app. This means you can publish a single APK in both Play Billing supported and non-supported countries (rather than maintaining a separate APK that does not use the Billing permission for non-supported countries). Remember to check first if billing is supported before trying to offer any in-app purchases.

Become a 'subscriptions first' company and succeed on Google Play

As developers become more sophisticated with their subscriptions offerings on Google Play, our most successful partners have learned a lot about what does and doesn't work well. Niko Schröer, a partner manager with expert knowledge of subscription apps, has a new post on Medium to help you become a successful subscriptions company. In the post, you'll find a link to our detailed user research on Android subscribers [PDF] published in June 2017, which offers helpful insights into what users look for in a subscription product. We've also published some new best practices on subscriptions, which you can read along with other tips to succeed on Google Play in the Playbook app.

How other developers are succeeding with subscriptions on Play

Viki, a Singapore based video app, uses subscriptions to build a sustainable and predictable revenue stream, allowing them to invest in original content and provide better premium experiences for their users. Total revenue from subscriptions grew over 200% over the year, and by 700% in emerging markets like the Middle East and Latin America. Watch Alex Chan, Senior VP of Product and Engineering at Viki, tell the story.

The developer of Anghami, a popular music service in the Middle East and North Africa, increased the number of subscribers in their app with user interface experiments and introductory pricing. During one promotional period, Anghami used introductory pricing to increase new sign-ups by 400% compared to their average daily sign-ups. Find out more about how Anghami achieves subscription success.

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