I’m going to tell you a story, fortunately it’s a short story. It’s a story of how I managed to get my basic hybrid application approved in the Google Play store in less than a day, without any coding and how you can do the same for your application. In order to do so, you just need to follow a set of small steps and you’ll have your app in the app store in no time at all. It almost feels like a cheat code. But it’s not, it’s the most pragmatic way a non-technical person can get their app into the Play Store.
You’ll need to sort out a few things beforehand:
- Sign up for an Morphlabs account (subscriptions start at €9.99/month, but you get a 1 month free trial, so you can test drive all the features before committing to a plan)
- Sign up for an account on PhoneGap Build (free for 1 private application)
- Sign up for a Google Developer account if you don’t have one (there’s a $25 registration fee involved)
Don’t move to the next steps until you’ve ensured you’ve sorted out all of the above.
Creating an App with Morphlabs
Right. From this point on I’ll assume you’ve got everything sorted. If you’re having problems with anything from the above, get in touch with me via chat or email me at [email protected]. We can now move on to the main steps:
- Open your Morphlabs account, create your new web application and add content sources. We used the RSS/ATOM option to connect and quickly fetch our blog’s content. Check out this short video tutorial if you run into any trouble when adding your own content sources.
- You will be given a temporary URL from which you can access the app. Check that URL using your phone, to see that you have everything you expected from your app.
Preparing the web application
Now we need to download the app-shell from GitHub → https://github.com/morphlabs/phonegap-app-shell. Download it as .zip and extract it anywhere on your computer, next we need to:
- Open the ‘app-shell’ folder, go to the ‘conf’ folder, look for a file called
conf.def.jsonand create a copy named
- Modify both files with the following: look for a line called
"url": "", and input the link to your app there (app.morphlabs.com/xxxxx) and save each file.
- Now, you need to give your app a unique identifier(id). You do this by going to the root folder of your application, and opening the ‘config.xml’ with a text-editor. Here you look for the line where you have
widget id="com.morphlabs.app", and change the id of your app (this must be reverse-domain name style (e.g. ‘com.yourdomainname.yourapp’).
- Now archive the ‘app-shell’ folder into a .zip file
- Upload the .zip file to https://build.phonegap.com/
- After the upload is done just press on the ‘ready to build’ button, and wait until PhoneGap builds your application. When the process is finished your screen should look similar to the image below
- Scan the QR-code generated by your app, and you’ll be able to install the app on your device. This is used for testing. You want to do this to ensure everything works exactly as in the webapp displayed in the browser.
Signing the application
We now need to finish off one more important step before your app is ready for publishing. You need to sign your app. The file we generate is mandatory and it is used, among other things, to identify the owner of the application.
I know I promised at the start there won’t be any coding involved, and this is still true, it’s 99% true. I’m sorry it can’t be 100% true. This is still the simplest way you can get your app in the Play Store. So roll up your sleeves and bear with me for the next steps. I tried to make them as painless as possible.
On Mac / Linux based systems
- We need to have again access to the command line, so let’s search for it and open it
- You need to run this command in the command line interface:
keytool -genkey -v -keystore [appname].keystore -alias [alias-name] -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000
- Replace the items between [ ] with your own identification details, and obviously remove the [ ].
- You are going to be asked to set a password for the file ( make sure you remember it, or write it down somewhere, you’ll need it later).
- Answer the next questions, and follow the next steps in the terminal as instructed.
- Now let’s search for our generated file, and move it to a common location, like the ‘Downloads’ folder
For Windows I don’t have screenshots, as I don’t own a Windows machine, but I’ve summarised the instructions available at build.phonegap.com for users running on Windows:
- Download and install Java
- Set Java_Home directory (http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E19182-01/820-7851/inst_cli_jdk_javahome_t/index.html).
- Open the command prompt (cmd.exe) as an Administrator, then Run the following command:
keytool -genkey -v -keystore [keystore_name].keystore -alias [alias_name] -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000
Generating your app-store ready application
The hardest part is over now. We just need to upload our newly generated key to Phonegap Build so they can generate a signed application for us:
- Go to your Phonegap Build account:
- Go to the ‘Signing Keys’ tab, look for the Android logo, and press on the ‘add a key’ button under it. Look for the ‘.keystore’ file we generated earlier in the process, and add it.
- Now you need to unlock your newly uploaded key, by pressing on the lock icon next to it. Just add in your certificate password and keystore password, and your key will be unlocked so will be able to generate our application.
- Now you go back to the apps screen and rebuild your Android app with your key.
- You then wait for the application to be generated and then press on the apk button to download the ‘.apk’ file that you will submit to the Google Play store.
Submitting your application to Google Play
The app submission process is quite straightforward so I’m just going to give an overview of the main steps:
- Upload the signed .apk file downloaded from build.phonegap.com.
- Complete the “Store Listing” section
- Complete the “Content Rating” section
- Complete the “Pricing & Distribution” section
Aaaand you are done. Submit it, and wait for it to be approved to Google Play. A large majority of apps get approved with 24 to 48 hours, so it’s time to take a breath and give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve done your part.
This is it folks. If you want to checkout our blog on Google Play, you can do so at this link. Thank you for staying through till the end and I hope right now you feel ready to create and publish your own mobile application on the Google Play store.