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Google Play’s beta testing program “Early Access” opens to more developers

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Google is today expanding to more developers access to its “Early Access” beta testing program. This program, launched earlier this spring, gave Android developers the ability to better reach early adopters willing to try their app while still in beta, ahead of its public launch. Through the “Early Access” section on the Google Play Store, users could discover a curated list of interesting, new applications to download.

Initially, inclusion in this program was only available to a hand-picked group of 29 app and game partners, but today Google is opening up “Early Access” more broadly.

Though Google already offered a way for developers to run open beta tests for their apps, in May it began allowing developers to enroll users into beta tests right from the Play Store landing pages. Meanwhile, the idea with the “Early Access” collection on Google Play was to highlight the best upcoming applications for those developers who don’t yet have an active user community.

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In just over a month after the collection became available to all Google Play users, the open beta titles were installed more than 1 million times. Launch partners like language learning developer Lingbe, online book club Readfeed and Lego were among those who participated in “Early Access,” using their spot to attract users, validate their app’s concept, get feedback, identify bugs, test game mechanics and more.

However, being featured in “Early Access” was previously based on Google’s discretion alone. There was no way to request a spot. Today, that changes — Google is introducing a sign-up process for Android developers, which will allow them to nominate their app for consideration.

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That’s not a guarantee that the app will be included in “Early Access,” of course, but it’s a way to at least request inclusion. Google says new titles will be added weekly, and thousands of users are available to test.

The program’s expansion comes at a time when Google (and Apple) are working on better ways to help indie developers have their applications discovered in what have become sizable mobile application marketplaces. Google Play now has more than 2 million appsavailable for download, which means finding new apps and games to try by browsing the top charts or categories isn’t always efficient. Often, users find new apps via app store search, advertising and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Being able to test an app ahead of launch to work out the kinks is valuable, as you may only have one shot at retaining a user’s interest after download… if they ever launch the app at all.

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