How to publish keyboard to Google Play? [possibly solved]

I am using (I hope) the latest KAB version 11.1

My new keyboard is running fine on my own phones locally and now I want to start using “internal testing” on Google Play for our team members. And then publish of course.

It was 2019 when I last published a new app from scratch on Google Play. I have spent hours to create all the declarations and screenshots etc. as they are requested now in late 2023.

Now that I want to upload the output from KAB, I get stuck on two issues:

[possibly solved, I am presently testing a new “upload key” created in Android Studio, see reply below]
Google got very complicated about app signing. Since KAB had asked me already to create a keystore, I did. I downloaded some Google tool and followed instructions to extract my key for signing and upload it (as a protected zip file to Google Play). After a lot of study and updating tools, I get messages that the keystore (as set up by KAB) does not agree with the Google tools. I might have done something wrong, please advise. I can follow written instructions.

[update: This second issue is solved, since I found the option to build bundles]
The other issue is that Google these days wants app bundles, and all I get from KAB is one apk. There might be hacks, using Android Studio, to transmogrify one apk into a dummy-bundle. I happen to have Android Studio on my machine, but I would need guidance please.

Just to be clear, I am not with SIL, more like a guest here.

I have downloaded and read two manuals. In the volume “building apps”, at the end, I read this closing chapter:

Blockquote 7. Distribution
Android apps built with Keyboard App Builder can be published on the Google Play store, distributed on memory cards, shared by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi transfer, uploaded to websites, or sent out by email.
For more information, please see the user manual: Distributing Apps.

My problem is that I cannot find this extra volume “Distributing App”, please help.

Major update:

I am presently searching for a solution to a different challenge (zombie spell checker) and I am crawling through all menus and options and settings of KAB. So I just discovered an option to build app bundles! Yeah. There is this very prominent button, always present, saying “Build Android App” so I had missed the one option for bundles in the “Build” menu.

I have already tested it and Google has accepted the upload of my bundle and so my second issue is probably now solved.

I get one warning from Google about the bundle, and I will ignore that for now:

This App Bundle contains native code, and you’ve not uploaded debug symbols. We recommend you upload a symbol file to make your crashes and ANRs easier to analyze and debug.

more update:
I learnt from Google, how to apply their preference, which is to let Google handle the signing.

I got this from here (as note to self):

So all that is left to do on my machine, with KAB is to generate and use a so called “upload key”. It is unclear to me, what happens on Google’s end after my upload: Will they be able to strip my upload key or will they just sign with their “publication key” on top of my upload key? Never mind.

I learnt here, how to use Android Studio and generate an upload key:

I did pop this new upload key into the signing-tab into KAB and it could use it fine. I had opted for “bundle” when I used Android Studio for generating this upload key. No idea what is the difference between an upload key and a publishing key.

My first test was with a very controlled limited test-group, our own office team. Now I will test if this method will actually work for an app to go public via Google Play. I will update, as I go along.

Yes, Google has accepted my latest bundle, which I have signed in KAB with my fresh upload key. I have filled-in all that Google demanded and have just submitted for review. Since I have not published to Google Play in a while, we will see if they really take 7 days.

In the meantime I have hope again and can fine-tune the app and make more pretty screen-shots and improve the blurb.

I will tag this - for now - as “solved” and will come back, if Google finds details to refuse my bundle.