Android Beta Testing on the Play Store
Beta Testing Android Apps on the Google Play Store
It's easy enough to email an Android APK for your technical team to install, and that has always made it a bit easier to internally distribute Android app builds than iOS builds. (This was of course even more true before TestFlight). But what about Beta testing?
There's a certain point in development, after the smoke tests, automated tests, and UI tests are happy and an app just needs to be in the hands of select group of users, to see how it feels. Enter Beta Testing for Google Play Apps. You'll need to create a Google Group or Google+ Community, but after you're set up there you'll get the benefit of crash reports, stack traces, and automatic updates.
Create an App
Log into the Developer Console and upload an APK. No need to publish it yet.
Check out the 'Beta' tab now, which should show this handy message:
Upload Beta APK
Click the Beta tab and upload the APK again. Publishing from this tab will not push it to the store, but there is a handy button that allows you to promote apps from Alpha to Beta to Prod, which is neat.
Create a Test Group
Using your developer account (it must be the primary google developer account), create a Google+ Community. Public or private, doesn't matter. (You could use a Google Group too, but Google+ is a pretty good medium for wrangling a beta team, so I'll recommend it here.)
Add your Community to the list of testers by clicking "Manage list of testers" and pasting the Community's url.
Invite Users to Test
Click publish in the Beta tab. Click again on "Manage list of testers" and there you will find a url to share with your Community. When they go to that url, they'll get a signup prompt (later, a play store link). Rollouts will take anywhere from a minute to a couple hours to propagate, as with anything on the store.
Have Fun! (Beta)
That's it! Remind your Beta testers to give you as much feedback as possible, and remember, of course, to listen to them.