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Intro to How to Make an App on Google Play

To target Android users, you put your app on Google Play

This article takes a quick look at how to make and publish an app on Google Play. It’s a part of our series on how to sell apps. If you’re curious about how to list an app on Apple’s App Store, here’s our App Store article that parallels this one. Our goal for this article is to give you a quick overview of what is involved—including the costs—of selling apps or in-app purchases on Google Play.

The actual process of building and then selling an Android app is quite complex. If you’re looking for an article that explains the technical aspects of developing an app such as which programming language is best or which cloud computing service to use, this article isn’t it.

Instead, we’re going to focus on the costs and fees of selling an app on Google Play. We’ll also briefly talk about Google’s developer guidelines that you’ll have to follow to put an app on Google Play.

So let’s get started.

How to Sign Up to be a Google Play Developer

To put an app on Google Play (i.e. publish an app), you’ll first need to sign up to be a Google Play Developer. You’ll need to pay a one-time fee of $25 (as of this writing). Once you sign up, you’ll get access to the Play Console, which allows you to publish and manage all your apps.

There are two types of developer accounts you can set up: personal or organizational. For both, you’ll need to have a website, so be sure to get one before you start the sign-up process. The website doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to have your business’s privacy policy.

You’ll also need a business email and phone number.

For more details on how to sign up for an Google Play Developer account, see here.

The Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement

As a part of the Google Play Developer sign-up process, you’ll have to agree to the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement. You can find a copy here.

You should read the agreement. Compared with other legal agreements, it only has minimum legalese, so it shouldn’t be too confusing.

The agreement refers to various Google developer’s guidelines. If you have trouble understanding the agreement, the guidelines often clear things up. Technically, any guideline linked from the agreement is a part of the agreement (the legal term is incorporated by reference). So be sure to carefully follow all the linked guidelines.

The agreement covers business terms for selling apps or in-app purchases. We’ll go over these costs later in this article.

The agreement incorporates Google’s Developer Program Policies by reference. Be sure to follow those policies carefully.

Most app makers want both an iOS and an Android version of their app. You’ll find that, even though Apple’s development agreement and Google’s developer agreement cover similar things, they sometimes treat business and legal situations differently.

So, don’t assume that just because something is OK under Apple’s agreement, it would also be OK under Google’s agreement. Always check both, if issues arise.

Google’s Developer Guidelines

As mentioned earlier, Google sweeps in several of its policies and guidelines into its developer’s agreement.

The most important policies you need to follow are the Google Developer Program Policies. Note that these policies are continuously updated, so we’re linking you to the main menu page instead of individual pages. These policies cover a wide range of subjects, including restricted content, monetization and ads, and malware.

Data privacy has been in the news lately, so we want to point out that the Google Developer Program Policies has a section on data privacy issues. Under this section, you’ll find guidelines on user data, permissions, device and network abuse, deceptive behavior, and misrepresentation. Be sure to follow these rules carefully.

We think the easiest way to use these policies is to first focus on and design your app. Then, before you start coding, check the policies so you have the context to see how the policies may apply to you.

You might have to do this several times and adjust here and there. But, eventually, you should have an app that follows all the policies that may be applicable to your app. This will help you more easily get your app approved for publication.

Google Play Business Terms

You can find Google Play’s business terms in Sec. 3 of the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement. We encourage you to read the section. Note that the section also links to other webpages. These webpages are a formal part of the agreement, so be sure to read them too.

Google receives a service fee for apps and in-app purchases made through the apps on Google Play (Sec. 3.4 of the agreement). You can find the current fees here, but basically, there are two tiers of fees.

  • 15% for the first $1M earned each year
  • 30% thereafter

You’ll have to enroll to qualify for the 15% tier. If you don’t enroll, you’ll be charged the 30% starting from the first dollar earned each year.

If your app sells physical goods (e.g. groceries) or services (e.g. food delivery services), then Google won’t charge you their service fee. However, you’ll have to set up your own payment processor and pay their charges for each payment. Here’s Google’s payments page to help you determine if you need to use Google’s payment processing services or set up your own.

In some countries (and in most states in the US), Google will help you calculate taxes, collect the taxes, and then remit the taxes to the proper authorities for you. (Sec. 3.5)

We highly recommend you skim through the entire Section 3 just to have an idea of what’s covered. It’s not a very long section, so you shouldn’t need a full cup of coffee to get through it.

After You Sign Up to be a Google Play Developer

There are two parts to building an app. There’s the obvious part—design and code the app. For Android apps, you can code the app using Android Studio. You can download a free copy here.

Once you finish coding, you move on to the testing and publication phase of your app building process. This is where you’ll be using your Play Console.

Android apps have to be published with the Android App Bundle. Once you’ve set up your app on the Play Console, you can beta test and input all the information (e.g. product description, screen shots, pricing) about your app and get it ready for official publication in the Play Store.

After your app is approved for publication by Google, you can launch the app and continue to manage the app from the Play Console. You’ll also use the Play Console to update your app and see performance reports for your app.

Do You Really Need an App?

If your business idea is based on an app, then of course you really need an app. In fact, you should have at least an Android version and an iOS version of your app.

But, if your small business sells some sort of goods or services, then having an app might simply be a glorified—and optional—marketing tool. If that’s the case, be aware that maintaining your app can be expensive and time consuming. Be sure to analyze all the costs involved before you build your app.

Interested in starting and running a small business? Here’s the beginning of our step-by-step guide: What to do right after getting that great business idea.

Questions? Comments?