Illustration by Teddy Tri Murdianto

Firebase App Distribution vs Internal Test Track

To develop great quality apps, testing is a must. There are a lot of types of tests that can be performed on apps, such as unit tests, instrumentation tests, and automation tests. But, usually, every company has its own team that will test the app in a user perspective called QA or Tester. In my company, Glovory, the QA team will test the app when the developer team finishes a milestone. This approach is important to keep minimal bugs before we move on to the next milestone.

https://play.google.com/apps/publish

With this method, the developer team must provide a testable app for the QA team. Fortunately, Google provides two ways to make apps available for the QA team, Firebase App Distribution, and Play Store Internal Test Track. But sometimes we are confused on which one we should use for our project. In this article, I’ll try to briefly explain each one of them and give you my opinion, so you can decide which one I suitable for your project.

Firebase App Distribution
Firebase App distribution is one of Firebase services that allow us(developers) to distribute our pre-released app(android or iOS) to our trusted tester/QA. Getting started with Firebase App Distribution is pretty simple if you have set up your app with a firebase. You can find the “App Distribution” menu on the right side of the firebase web page, under the quality section.

Source console.firebase.google.com

In the next step, you will be presented a page with three-tab,

Source https://console.firebase.google.com/

The “releases” tab is used to upload your APK or IPA file. Once it is uploaded, you can distribute it to testers or groups of testers that you have registered in The Testers and Groups tab. They will get an email notification to try and install the app.

Limitations

  • Maximum 500 testers can be registered to a Firebase project
  • Maximum 200 testers can be registered into an App Distribution Group
  • Maximum 200 testers per distribution
  • Must enable “install from unknown source” because the app is not from play store

For my company, Glovory, there are no limitations since we have a small team. But if you work for a bigger scale company, or if you want to have a beta test for your app and invite real users as your app testers you might want to consider the options.

Benefits

  • Compatible for android and IOS
  • No need to review the apk(just make sure that your apk package is the same with the one you registered on firebase project)
  • It works well with other Firebase services
  • You don’t have to upload APK with the latest version
  • Testers will get notifications (by email) if there is an app to test

Internal Test Track
If you have a play store account to upload APK or you have the experience to upload APK to play store, you probably notice that there are a lot of types of release, Production, Open, Closed, and Internal. In the App releases page, you will find the Internal Test Track Section, and it has two options, “ Internal Test” and “ Internal App Sharing”.

Source https://play.google.com/apps/publish

Before 2019, “Internal test” is the only menu for the internal test track. We create an internal test release to quickly distribute your app for internal testing and quality assurance checks. But because it’s considered a release then there is a lot of configuration and rules that we must follow, such as using a signed apk, updating the version code, and many more. And then in 2019, Google launched Internal App Sharing, a feature that is similar to Firebase App Distribution. Internal App Sharing lets you share the app without using a signed APK and do not have to register testers. You can just share the link but it is limited only for 100 downloads.

Limitations

  • Only works for android
  • Limited to 100 testers (internal test) or 100 downloads (internal app sharing)
  • You must have Google Play Console account (register fee $25)

Benefits

  • It works well with other google play services/integration
  • Installed from the trusted resource(no need to set in client’s phone)

Final Thoughts
Both Firebase App Distribution or Internal Test Track are great features, and we can use it for our app development. But both also have limitations and benefits that we need to consider if we want to use it.
In my opinion, the Internal Test Track is suitable if we want to test google play integration with our apps such as payment, dynamic module, and many more. On the other hand, Firebase App Distribution if we have an iOS app, or we do not have access to google play console. But if you have access to google play console and have no problem with 100 testers or downloads, then I would recommend you to use Internal App Sharing.

Check my thoughts on Flutter CI/CD, Which One and Why and our piece on Flutter Firebase Authentication Tutorial in Bahasa

Contributor : Nashiruddin Abubakar

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We are a comprehensive digital product agency specializing in UI/UX design & development of websites and mobile applications, IoT, AI, and custom software dev.

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Glovory Tech

Glovory Tech

We are a comprehensive digital product agency specializing in UI/UX design & development of websites and mobile applications, IoT, AI, and custom software dev.

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