Build and release an Android app

During a typical development cycle, you test an app using flutter run at the command line, or by using the Run and Debug options in your IDE. By default, Flutter builds a debug version of your app.

When you’re ready to prepare a release version of your app, for example to publish to the Google Play Store, this page can help. Before publishing, you might want to put some finishing touches on your app. This page covers the following topics:

Adding a launcher icon

When a new Flutter app is created, it has a default launcher icon. To customize this icon, you might want to check out the flutter_launcher_icons package.

Alternatively, you can do it manually using the following steps:

  1. Review the Material Design product icons guidelines for icon design.

  2. In the [project]/android/app/src/main/res/ directory, place your icon files in folders named using configuration qualifiers. The default mipmap- folders demonstrate the correct naming convention.

  3. In AndroidManifest.xml, update the application tag’s android:icon attribute to reference icons from the previous step (for example, <application android:icon="@mipmap/ic_launcher" ...).

  4. To verify that the icon has been replaced, run your app and inspect the app icon in the Launcher.

Enabling Material Components

If your app uses Platform Views, you may want to enable Material Components by following the steps described in the Getting Started guide for Android.

For example:

  1. Add the dependency on Android’s Material in <my-app>/android/app/build.gradle:
dependencies {
    // ...
    implementation 'com.google.android.material:material:<version>'
    // ...
}

To find out the latest version, visit Google Maven.

  1. Set the light theme in <my-app>/android/app/src/main/res/values/styles.xml:
-<style name="NormalTheme" parent="@android:style/Theme.Light.NoTitleBar">
+<style name="NormalTheme" parent="Theme.MaterialComponents.Light.NoActionBar">
  1. Set the dark theme in <my-app>/android/app/src/main/res/values-night/styles.xml
-<style name="NormalTheme" parent="@android:style/Theme.Black.NoTitleBar">
+<style name="NormalTheme" parent="Theme.MaterialComponents.DayNight.NoActionBar">

Signing the app

To publish on the Play Store, you need to give your app a digital signature. Use the following instructions to sign your app.

On Android, there are two signing keys: deployment and upload. The end-users download the .apk signed with the ‘deployment key’. An ‘upload key’ is used to authenticate the .aab / .apk uploaded by developers onto the Play Store and is re-signed with the deployment key once in the Play Store.

Create an upload keystore

If you have an existing keystore, skip to the next step. If not, create one by either:

  • Following the Android Studio key generation steps
  • Running the following at the command line:

    On Mac/Linux, use the following command:

      keytool -genkey -v -keystore ~/upload-keystore.jks -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000 -alias upload
    

    On Windows, use the following command:

      keytool -genkey -v -keystore c:\Users\USER_NAME\upload-keystore.jks -storetype JKS -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000 -alias upload
    

    This command stores the upload-keystore.jks file in your home directory. If you want to store it elsewhere, change the argument you pass to the -keystore parameter. However, keep the keystore file private; don’t check it into public source control!

Reference the keystore from the app

Create a file named [project]/android/key.properties that contains a reference to your keystore:

storePassword=<password from previous step>
keyPassword=<password from previous step>
keyAlias=upload
storeFile=<location of the key store file, such as /Users/<user name>/upload-keystore.jks>

Configure signing in gradle

Configure gradle to use your upload key when building your app in release mode by editing the [project]/android/app/build.gradle file.

  1. Add the keystore information from your properties file before the android block:

       def keystoreProperties = new Properties()
       def keystorePropertiesFile = rootProject.file('key.properties')
       if (keystorePropertiesFile.exists()) {
           keystoreProperties.load(new FileInputStream(keystorePropertiesFile))
       }
    
       android {
             ...
       }
    

    Load the key.properties file into the keystoreProperties object.

  2. Find the buildTypes block:

       buildTypes {
           release {
               // TODO: Add your own signing config for the release build.
               // Signing with the debug keys for now,
               // so `flutter run --release` works.
               signingConfig signingConfigs.debug
           }
       }
    

    And replace it with the following signing configuration info:

       signingConfigs {
           release {
               keyAlias keystoreProperties['keyAlias']
               keyPassword keystoreProperties['keyPassword']
               storeFile keystoreProperties['storeFile'] ? file(keystoreProperties['storeFile']) : null
               storePassword keystoreProperties['storePassword']
           }
       }
       buildTypes {
           release {
               signingConfig signingConfigs.release
           }
       }
    

Release builds of your app will now be signed automatically.

For more information on signing your app, see Sign your app on developer.android.com.

Shrinking your code with R8

R8 is the new code shrinker from Google, and it’s enabled by default when you build a release APK or AAB. To disable R8, pass the --no-shrink flag to flutter build apk or flutter build appbundle.

Enabling multidex support

When writing large apps or making use of large plugins, you may encounter Android’s dex limit of 64k methods when targeting a minimum API of 20 or below. This may also be encountered when running debug versions of your app via flutter run that does not have shrinking enabled.

Flutter tool supports easily enabling multidex. The simplest way is to opt into multidex support when prompted. The tool detects multidex build errors and will ask before making changes to your Android project. Opting in allows Flutter to automatically depend on androidx.multidex:multidex and use a generated FlutterMultiDexApplication as the project’s application.

You might also choose to manually support multidex by following Android’s guides and modifying your project’s Android directory configuration. A multidex keep file must be specified to include:

io/flutter/embedding/engine/loader/FlutterLoader.class
io/flutter/util/PathUtils.class

Also, include any other classes used in app startup. See the official Android documentation for more detailed guidance on adding multidex support manually.

Reviewing the app manifest

Review the default App Manifest file, AndroidManifest.xml, located in [project]/android/app/src/main and verify that the values are correct, especially the following:

application
Edit the android:label in the application tag to reflect the final name of the app.
uses-permission
Add the android.permission.INTERNET permission if your application code needs Internet access. The standard template does not include this tag but allows Internet access during development to enable communication between Flutter tools and a running app.

Reviewing the build configuration

Review the default Gradle build file, build.gradle, located in [project]/android/app and verify the values are correct, especially the following values in the defaultConfig block:

applicationId
Specify the final, unique (Application Id)appid
versionCode & versionName
Specify the internal app version number, and the version number display string. You can do this by setting the version property in the pubspec.yaml file. Consult the version information guidance in the versions documentation.
minSdkVersion, compilesdkVersion, & targetSdkVersion
Specify the minimum API level, the API level on which the app was compiled, and the maximum API level on which the app is designed to run. Consult the API level section in the versions documentation for details.
buildToolsVersion
Specify the version of Android SDK Build Tools that your app uses. Alternatively, you can use the Android Gradle Plugin in Android Studio, which will automatically import the minimum required Build Tools for your app without the need for this property.

Building the app for release

You have two possible release formats when publishing to the Play Store.

  • App bundle (preferred)
  • APK

Build an app bundle

This section describes how to build a release app bundle. If you completed the signing steps, the app bundle will be signed. At this point, you might consider obfuscating your Dart code to make it more difficult to reverse engineer. Obfuscating your code involves adding a couple flags to your build command, and maintaining additional files to de-obfuscate stack traces.

From the command line:

  1. Enter cd [project]
  2. Run flutter build appbundle
    (Running flutter build defaults to a release build.)

The release bundle for your app is created at [project]/build/app/outputs/bundle/release/app.aab.

By default, the app bundle contains your Dart code and the Flutter runtime compiled for armeabi-v7a (ARM 32-bit), arm64-v8a (ARM 64-bit), and x86-64 (x86 64-bit).

Test the app bundle

An app bundle can be tested in multiple ways—this section describes two.

Offline using the bundle tool

  1. If you haven’t done so already, download bundletool from the GitHub repository.
  2. Generate a set of APKs from your app bundle.
  3. Deploy the APKs to connected devices.

Online using Google Play

  1. Upload your bundle to Google Play to test it. You can use the internal test track, or the alpha or beta channels to test the bundle before releasing it in production.
  2. Follow these steps to upload your bundle to the Play Store.

Build an APK

Although app bundles are preferred over APKs, there are stores that don’t yet support app bundles. In this case, build a release APK for each target ABI (Application Binary Interface).

If you completed the signing steps, the APK will be signed. At this point, you might consider obfuscating your Dart code to make it more difficult to reverse engineer. Obfuscating your code involves adding a couple flags to your build command.

From the command line:

  1. Enter cd [project]
  2. Run flutter build apk --split-per-abi
    (The flutter build command defaults to --release.)

This command results in three APK files:

  • [project]/build/app/outputs/apk/release/app-armeabi-v7a-release.apk
  • [project]/build/app/outputs/apk/release/app-arm64-v8a-release.apk
  • [project]/build/app/outputs/apk/release/app-x86_64-release.apk

Removing the --split-per-abi flag results in a fat APK that contains your code compiled for all the target ABIs. Such APKs are larger in size than their split counterparts, causing the user to download native binaries that are not applicable to their device’s architecture.

Install an APK on a device

Follow these steps to install the APK on a connected Android device.

From the command line:

  1. Connect your Android device to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Enter cd [project].
  3. Run flutter install.

Publishing to the Google Play Store

For detailed instructions on publishing your app to the Google Play Store, see the Google Play launch documentation.

Updating the app’s version number

The default version number of the app is 1.0.0. To update it, navigate to the pubspec.yaml file and update the following line:

version: 1.0.0+1

The version number is three numbers separated by dots, such as 1.0.0 in the example above, followed by an optional build number such as 1 in the example above, separated by a +.

Both the version and the build number may be overridden in Flutter’s build by specifying --build-name and --build-number, respectively.

In Android, build-name is used as versionName while build-number used as versionCode. For more information, see Version your app in the Android documentation.

After updating the version number in the pubspec file, run flutter pub get from the top of the project, or use the Pub get button in your IDE. This updates the versionName and versionCode in the local.properties file, which are later updated in the build.gradle file when you rebuild the Flutter app.

Android release FAQ

Here are some commonly asked questions about deployment for Android apps.

When should I build app bundles versus APKs?

The Google Play Store recommends that you deploy app bundles over APKs because they allow a more efficient delivery of the application to your users. However, if you’re distributing your application by means other than the Play Store, an APK may be your only option.

What is a fat APK?

A fat APK is a single APK that contains binaries for multiple ABIs embedded within it. This has the benefit that the single APK runs on multiple architectures and thus has wider compatibility, but it has the drawback that its file size is much larger, causing users to download and store more bytes when installing your application. When building APKs instead of app bundles, it is strongly recommended to build split APKs, as described in build an APK using the --split-per-abi flag.

What are the supported target architectures?

When building your application in release mode, Flutter apps can be compiled for armeabi-v7a (ARM 32-bit), arm64-v8a (ARM 64-bit), and x86-64 (x86 64-bit). Flutter does not currently support building for x86 Android (See Issue 9253).

How do I sign the app bundle created by flutter build appbundle?

See Signing the app.

How do I build a release from within Android Studio?

In Android Studio, open the existing android/ folder under your app’s folder. Then, select build.gradle (Module: app) in the project panel:

screenshot of gradle build script menu

Next, select the build variant. Click Build > Select Build Variant in the main menu. Select any of the variants in the Build Variants panel (debug is the default):

screenshot of build variant menu

The resulting app bundle or APK files are located in build/app/outputs within your app’s folder.