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Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 : App publication (part 5) - Beta testing, Versions

3/17/2014 1:38:34 AM
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5. Beta testing

The Windows Phone Store supports a simple beta testing mode for applications. When you first submit your app, you have the option to make it available to only a selected set of users. You choose the users by specifying their Microsoft Account email addresses in the submission form. You can enter up to 10,000 users for beta testing (a huge improvement over Windows Phone 7, for which you could only support 100 beta users). When you do this, the Dev Center sends you an email containing the download link for your app, which you can then send to your selected users. The Windows Phone Store hides the app from general availability, making it visible for download to only those users whom you selected. You need to handle test results from your beta users directly; there is no Windows Phone Store mechanism to support feedback in this scenario. There is a 90-day limit to the beta testing period, and this is enforced by installing a 90-day license for the app on the phone. After this time, your users will no longer be able to start the app. You can add more test users at any time during this period. Be aware also that there is no option to terminate your test period before the 90-day period has expired. Users who have installed the app will be able to use it up to the end of the 90-day period. However, you can delete the app from the Windows Phone Store, so that it is no longer available to any designated beta users who happen not to have installed it yet.

Submitting an app for beta distribution is free, and it does not count against your allowed number of app submissions. You cannot attach a price to a beta app. Anyone with a Windows phone (and a Microsoft Account) can be a beta tester, and he does not need to have a developer-unlocked device. The process is also fast because the app does not go through the full set of certification tests and generally becomes available to your beta testers within hours of submitting it to the program.

There is no special “beta-to-release” upgrade path, so when your beta test is complete, you need to submit a fresh, full submission to publish your app in the normal way. It might also be worth pointing out to users that any data that they create within the app during beta testing will be lost when the final app is published.

6. Versions

Apart from fixing bugs, improving the UI, providing fresher data, and adding features, the other main reason for updating is to take advantage of new features in the latest version of the platform and SDK. As of this writing, this means updating from version 7.1 to 8.0. However, some users will not have upgraded to version 8.0 devices. All version 7.0 and 7.1 apps will continue to work on version 8.0 devices, so if you’re not adding new features, you could take the path of least resistance and simply maintain your version 7.x app.

If you are adding new features, one option is to maintain both major versions of your app in the Windows Phone Store. This means forking your source code and applying bug fixes in two places, but it does mean that users can continue to get the benefit of your updates, regardless of which platform version they use.

You can maintain multiple versions on the Windows Phone Store and submit updates to each one independently. You might want multiple XAP versions to support different target markets, or for different screen resolutions, or indeed for different device versions. Even though some of the Windows Phone Store metadata for your app is shared across both versions, most of it is independent. Specifically, the XAP itself, the catalog details (descriptions and screenshots), pricing and regional availability, the version number the published/unpublished status, and the hidden/live status are all independent per version. This means the version number of your 7.1 version doesn’t need to be the same as the version number for your 8.0 version. You might submit, for example, four version updates for your 7.1 version, and only two version updates for your 8.0 version, and so on, as shown in Figure 14.

A screenshot of the Dev Center dashboard, showing a table which lists multiple versions of the MySuperCoolApp app.

Figure 14. You can maintain multiple versions of your app in the Windows Phone Store.

One reason to publish an update for an old version 7.1 app is to enable a “light-up” scenario; that is, to take advantage of version 8.0 features if the app is running on Windows Phone 8.0. To be clear, this strategy is not the same as publishing an 8.0 version of your version 7.1 app. Rather, it means publishing a version 7.1 update to a 7.1 version app, but including version 8.0 features.

 
Others
 
- Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 : App publication (part 4) - Updates
- Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 : App publication (part 3) - Dev Center reports
- Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 : App publication (part 2) - The publication process
- Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 : App publication (part 1) - Preparing for publication
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- Windows Phone 8 : Creating a Photos Extras Application (part 2) - An Edge-Tracing Extras Application
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