Use alpha/beta testing & staged rollouts

Using the Google Play Developer Console, you can choose groups of users to beta test different versions of your app and gradually roll out an app update over time, known as a staged rollout.

Testing basics

With the alpha/beta testing tools available in your Developer account, you can test different versions of your app.

  • You don’t need a production APK to publish an alpha/beta app.
  • Users need a Google Account (@gmail.com) or a Google Apps account to join a test.
  • If you're testing an existing app that you've published before, only users in your test group will receive an update for your alpha/beta version. If you're testing a new app that you haven't published before, only users in your test group can find and download your app.
  • After publishing an alpha/beta APK for the first time, it may take a few hours for your test link to be available to testers. If you publish additional changes, they may take several hours to be available for testers.
  • If you make any changes to your app's Pricing & Distribution page, including setting your app price to Paid or Free, it affects your production, alpha, beta, and any future versions of your app.

Tip: When you’re starting a new alpha/beta test, it’s a good idea to start with a small group of alpha testers, then expand your test to a larger beta test group.

Run a test

Step 1: Choose a testing method

Here are the different types of testing methods you can use in your alpha/beta tests. After you choose a testing method, you’ll get a URL link to your alpha/beta app to share with your testers.

Closed beta testing

With closed beta testing, you can create a list of beta testers by email address. Closed beta testing can be useful for running a test with a smaller group, like within your company or team, or when you know the exact users you want to test your app. Users need a Google Account (@gmail.com) or a Google Apps account to join a test.

Here’s how to get started with closed beta testing:

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Near the middle of the page, click Beta testing.
  5. Click the Choose testing method drop-down.
  6. Select Set up Closed Beta Testing.
  7. Under “Closed Beta Testing,” click Create list.
  8. Type a name to identify your list of testers.
    • You can use the same list for future tests.
    • When you create a list for one app, the list can be reused in tests for other apps in your developer account.
  9. Add your testers’ email addresses, separated by commas.
    • If you want to add testers using a .CSV file instead, click Upload new CSV file. On the .CSV file, each email address should be on its own line and shouldn’t be separated by commas. If you upload a .CSV file, it will overwrite email addresses that you’ve added manually to the list.
  10. Click Save.
  11. Check the box next to the list of testers you want to use in your beta test.
  12. Copy the “Beta opt-in URL” for your test. This is the link that you’ll need to share with your beta testers.
    • The link uses the following format: https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.package.name
    • The opt-in link only shows when an app is "Published." Apps in "Draft" or "Pending publication" won't show the opt-in link.
    • After clicking the opt-in link, your testers will get an explanation of what it means to be a tester and a link to opt-in. Each tester needs to opt-in using the link to be part of the beta test.
  13. Next to “Feedback channel,” add an email address or URL to collect your testers’ feedback. Your app’s feedback channel will be shown to users on your tester opt-in page.
  14. Click Save.
Open beta testing

With open beta testing, you can choose a maximum number of users to test your beta app without specifying email addresses or creating a Google Group or Google+ Community. Open beta testing can be useful for running a test with a large group because you can share a URL link on a website or email and every user with the link can download the beta version of your app.

Here’s how to get started with open beta testing:

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Near the middle of the page, click Beta testing.
  5. Click the Choose testing method drop-down.
  6. Select Set up Open Beta Testing.
  7. Type the maximum number of users you want to test your app (optional).
    • The maximum number needs to be at least 1,000.
  8. Copy the “Beta opt-in URL” for your test. This is the link that you’ll need to share with your beta testers.
    • The link uses the following format: https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.package.name
    • The opt-in link only shows when an app is "Published." Apps in "Draft" or "Pending publication" won't show the opt-in link.
    • After clicking the opt-in link, your testers will get an explanation of what it means to be a tester and a link to opt-in. Each tester needs to opt-in using the link to be part of the beta test.
  9. Next to “Feedback channel,” add an email address or URL to collect your testers’ feedback. Your app’s feedback channel will be shown to users on your tester opt-in page.
  10. Click Save.
Closed beta testing using Google Groups or Google+ communities
  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Near the middle of the page, click Beta testing.
  5. Click the Choose testing method drop-down.
  6. Select Set up Groups or Communities Beta Testing.
  7. Type the Google Group email address or Google+ Community URL.
    • When you add a test group, make sure to use the following formats:
    • Google Groups: yourgroupname@googlegroups.com
    • Google+ Community: https://plus.google.com/communities/123456789012345678901
  8. Click Add.
    • Important: Before your testers can opt-in to your beta test, they need to join the Google Group or Google+ Community that you’ve added. After they’ve joined the Group or Community, they also need to opt-in to your beta test.
  9. Copy the “Beta opt-in URL” for your test. This is the link that you’ll need to share with your beta testers.
    • The link uses the following format: https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.package.name
    • The opt-in link only shows when an app is "Published." Apps in "Draft" or "Pending publication" won't show the opt-in link.
    • After clicking the opt-in link, your testers will get an explanation of what it means to be a tester and a link to opt-in. Each tester needs to opt-in using the link to be part of the beta test.
Manage testers for Google Play Games Services

If you use Google Play Games Services, alpha and beta tester groups are automatically shared between your APK and Google Play Game Services.

On your Games services Game services Testing page, you can use the alpha and beta testers switch to automatically include any users that are opted-in to alpha and beta testing for your APK.

Also, you can manually add individual testers for Google Play Games Services. Here's how:

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Click Games services Game services.
  3. Select a game.
  4. On the left menu, click Testing.
  5. Under "Testing access", click Add testers.
  6. Type the email addresses you’d like to add.
    • Email addresses must be valid Google accounts that use Google+.
  7. Click Add.

Once users have opted-in to your test group, they can sign in using Google+, earn draft or published achievements, and post to draft or published leaderboards.

Step 2: Add an APK to your test
  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Near the middle of the page, click the Beta or Alpha tab.
  5. Click the Upload button.
  6. Select your APK file.
  7. Click the Publish option.
Step 3: Get feedback

Once your alpha or beta testers have opted-in and installed your app using the link you provided, they’ll be automatically updated to use the test version within a few minutes.

Because your testers can't leave public reviews for alpha/beta apps on Google Play, it's a good idea to include a feedback channel or let your users know how they can provide you with feedback by email, website, or a message forum.

Alpha/Beta availability

Alpha and beta APKs need to have a higher version code than production APKs to be available for testing.

  • To be available for alpha testers, alpha APKs need to have a higher version code than beta APKs.
  • If a beta APK is uploaded with a higher version code than an alpha APK, the alpha version will automatically be deactivated.
  • If a Production APK is uploaded with a higher version code than an alpha or beta APK, the alpha and/or beta version will automatically be deactivated.

Alpha testing group users are eligible for the alpha, beta, or production version of your app with the highest version code that is compatible with their device. Beta testing group users are only eligible for the beta or production version of your app with the highest version code that is compatible with their device.

Staged rollouts

You can release an app update to production using a staged rollout, where you release an app update to a percentage of your users and increase the percentage over time.

New and existing users are eligible for to receive updates from staged rollouts. Staged rollouts can only be used for app updates, not when publishing an app for the first time.

When you increase the percentage of a staged rollout, your original group of users who are eligible to receive the APK is always included. If you upload a new APK to an existing staged rollout, your original group stays the same. When you create a brand new staged rollout, your staged rollout starts with a new user group.

During a staged rollout, it's a good idea to closely monitor crash reports and user feedback. Users receiving the staged rollout can leave public reviews on Google Play.

Note: While a staged rollout is in progress, you won't be able to update your production configuration. Before you can update your production configuration, you need to publish the staged rollout to 100% of users.

Set up a staged rollout of an APK you have in alpha or beta testing
  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Near the middle of the page, click the Alpha Testing or Beta Testing tab.
  5. Promote your APK to Production.
    • If needed, deactivate your previous production APK.
  6. On the Production tab, next to "APK" and the Publish Now button, click the Down Down arrow.
  7. Select Publish as staged rollout.
  8. Select a percentage.
  9. Click Save and publish.
Set up a staged rollout on production (without an alpha or beta test)
  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Select Upload new APK to production.
  6. Next to Save Draft, Click the Down Down arrow.
  7. Select Publish as staged rollout.
  8. Select a percentage.
  9. Click Save and publish.
Increase your staged rollout percentage
  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Near the middle of the page, under "Staged Rollout" click Increase percentage.
  6. Select a percentage.
  7. Click Save and publish.
Halt a staged rollout

If you start a staged rollout and discover an urgent issue that you want to fix before rolling out a version out to more users, you can halt a staged rollout to help minimize the number of users who experience an issue with your app.

When you halt a staged rollout, users who already received a staged rollout version of your app won’t be downgraded. After you halt a staged rollout, no additional users will receive the version of your app used in your existing staged rollout.

Here’s how to halt a staged rollout:

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Near the middle of the page under "Staged Rollout," click Halt staged rollout.
  6. Click Halt.

Resume a staged rollout

Using a new APK

You can resume a rollout by uploading a new APK that fixes the issue to production and publishing your staged rollout to the same percentage of users. Your rollout will resume using the new APK. This can help minimize the number of users who observed issues with your previous version.

Simple mode

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Click Upload new APK to production.
  6. Upload your APK.
  7. Click Publish now to production.

Advanced mode

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Click Upload new APK to production.
    • Upload additional APK files to production as needed for your multiple APK configuration before publishing.
  6. Upload your APK.
  7. Click Save draft.
    • A checkbox for “Resume staged rollout when republished” will be checked automatically on your Production tab.
  8. Near the top of the screen, click Publish now.
Using the same APK

If you’ve halted a staged rollout and want to resume the rollout without making changes to your APK, here’s how you can resume the rollout. This can be helpful if you find that your existing APK doesn’t have an issue that you need to address.

Simple mode

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Near the middle of the page under "Staged Rollout," click Resume staged rollout.

Advanced mode

  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Click the Production tab.
  5. Near the middle of the page under “Staged Rollout,” check the box for “Resume staged rollout when republished.”
  6. Near the top of the screen, click Publish now.

Update an app during a staged rollout

If a staged rollout is in progress and you discover an issue with your app (e.g. crashes, bugs), you can publish an update to the staged rollout version using your Google Play Developer Console.

Using Simple mode
  1. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  2. Select an app.
  3. On the left menu, click APK.
  4. Select Upload new APK to production.
  5. Next to Save Draft, Click the Down Down arrow.
  6. Select Publish as staged rollout.
  7. Select a percentage.
    • To replace your previous staged rollout version, select the same percentage as your previous version. Compared to your previous staged rollout version, you can select the same rollout percentage or higher.
  8. Click Save and publish.
Using Advanced mode

Note: If you're using Advanced mode to manage multiple APK files, your updated APK configuration must be the same as the APK configuration in the current staged rollout.

  1. Develop and test a new APK.
  2. Sign in to your Google Play Developer Console.
  3. Select an app.
  4. On the left menu, click APK.
  5. Select Upload new APK to production.
  6. Upload your new file(s) and save as draft(s).
  7. Next to your current version(s), under "Actions", click Deactivate.

After you publish the replacement APK, affected users that received your previous update through the staged rollout will receive an update.

Note: When you upload a replacement APK, you will need to deactivate the APK you're replacing.

Author

Dave is a Google Play Developer Console expert and author of this help page. Leave him feedback below about the page.

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