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Mobile applications

Mandatory requirementSingle corporate European Commission accounts has to be used for all of the major app stores.

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A mobile application (or 'app') is a dedicated software application built specifically for certain smartphone or tablet operating systems (Apple, Android, Windows, BlackBerry). They are distributed through app stores that are usually managed by the owner of the mobile operating system.

 

If what you want your app to do can be done in a website, then it's best to do it in a website. It's cheaper and easier to maintain and a lot more people will see the content. See choosing the best option.

If you decide on an app then these pages describe how to plan it, what to include in your terms of reference and how you can submit it through the Commission's app store accounts.

Please contact the EUROPA team at an early stage so we can provide help and guidance and help make your app a success. This will also allow us to plan submitting the app to the relevant app store.

 

Plan the app

Like a website, you should have a clear idea of what the app should do and what you want to achieve with it.

  • Define what you want to achieve.
  • Define your audience and consider whether this audience use mobile apps
  • Be clear about what your app will do. Apps are for simple related tasks. Do not add unnecessary features.
  • Decide how you will measure performance:
    • Download figures are an indicator but not always reliable. Only Google Play provides information on how many people uninstall an app but this is usually 30-40% of the total download figure. (Note that the EUROPA team is investigating solutions for in-app analytics).
    • Increase in visits to website
    • Increase in queries to support helpdesk etc.
  • Decide on the platforms that you will develop for. As a public service, the Commission cannot favour one platform over another but app development is expensive and so cost versus reach has to be considered. 
  • Decide on the languages in which that the app will be available.

 

 

Terms of reference

When drafting your terms of reference, make sure to consider the following:

  • Maintenance: make sure your foresee maintenance for bug fixes and for possible modifications to ensure the app works with subsequent new versions of mobile operating systems.
  • Professionally written copy for app store descriptions.
  • Professionally designed app icons (in line with the visual identity) and screenshots for the app store pages.
  • Commission access to test versions (using products such as TestFlight for iOS).

 

 

Design and user interface

The different platforms have written extensive user interface guidelines. These should be consulted and your contractors should design with these in mind:

In addition, the Commission's visual identity graphic charterRestricted area: This link points to internal pages and may not work if you are browsing as an external user. will be expanded to include guidelines for mobile apps.

 

 

European Commission corporate app store accounts

The EUROPA team has created corporate European Commission accounts in each of the major app stores (Apple App Store, Google Play for Android devices, Windows Phone Marketplace and BlackBerry App World).

This saves on individual account registration costs and eliminates the administrative workload required in setting them up.

Commission services or their contractors can't be given access to these accounts because it is not possible to assign rights for specific apps.

The final build/signature of the app must be done by the EUROPA team because, with the exception of Windows Phone apps, an app must be electronically signed with the Commission's app store private keys.

To use the accounts, you should contact the EUROPA team at the start of your project and provide details, planned launch dates and a contact person. You should foresee sufficient time – it takes Apple around two weeks to approve apps.

What to send

Here is what must be sent to the EUROPA team for the different platforms:

  • Apple

Send a zip file containing the app project source files. The EUROPA team should be contacted beforehand and they will inform you what 'bundle ID' to use in the app code. The app will be compiled and built in the latest version of Xcode and so your source files must be compatible with it.

Some texts and images must also be sent that will be used in the app's app store page. Full details are provided in the Apple App Store: Text and images documentpdf(34 kB).

It takes between 8 and 10 days for Apple to review an app.

  • BlackBerry

Send a zip file containing the app project source files. The EUROPA team will also provide details on what text and images for the app store have to be provided.

The approval process for BlackBerry apps is between 3 and 5 days.

  • Google Play Store

Send an unsigned version of the Android application package file (APK). The standard configuration in Eclipse sets a debug signed key by default so the contractor should verify that the APK is unsigned before sending it to the EUROPA team.

Some texts and images must also be sent that will be used in the app's app store page. Full details are provided in the Google Play app store: Text and images documentpdf(27 kB).

Google Play Store apps appear online a couple of hours after submitting them.

  • Windows Phone

Send the Windows Phone app file (.xap). The EUROPA team will also provide details on what text and images for the app store have to be provided.

It appears online within 24 hours after being submitted.

 

Transferring an existing app to the corporate accounts

Apps can be transferred from another account to the Commission corporate accounts. All ratings and reviews will be kept.

However, please note the following:

  • Apple: the number of past downloads will be not be transferred.
  • Google Play: for any subsequent updates, the app can only be signed with the certificate used to sign previous versions. This means you will have to ask the original signee of the app to sign the update and then send it to us to upload. If this can't be done, then the app must be published as a new app.
  • Windows Phone: the number of past downloads will not be transferred and the developer name will only change the next time the app is updated.

Please contact the EUROPA team for more details.