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Google today added two new developer features to Google Play, making it easier for app makers to manage and convince Android users to join their beta tests. In response to feedback, Google is now letting developers offer an open beta (any user who has the link can join the test with one click) and a closed beta using email addresses (restricted to users on a list of individual email addresses).

For the past two years, the Google Play Developer Console has allowed developers to release early versions of their app to selected users as an alpha or beta test. Alphas and betas work as you’d expect: The select user group downloads the app on Google Play as normal, but can’t review or rate it in the store. This gives developers time to address bugs and other issues without negatively affecting their app listing.

Here is how the two new features work:

  • Open beta: Use an open beta when you want any user who has the link to be able to join your beta with just one click. One of the advantages of an open beta is that it allows you to scale to a large number of testers. However, you can also limit the maximum number of users who can join.
  • Closed beta using email addresses: If you want to restrict which users can access your beta, you have a new option — you can now set up a closed beta using lists of individual email addresses which you can add individually or upload as a .csv file. These users will be able to join your beta via a one-click opt-in link.

The existing closed beta options (via a Google+ community or a Google Group) are not going away. That said, developers can now move to an open beta while maintaining their existing testers.

Ellie Powers, Google Play product manager, also revealed today that 80 percent of developers with popular apps “routinely run beta tests as part of their workflow.” In other words, if you haven’t started offering alpha or beta tests of your apps yet, there’s no better time to start.

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