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Release channels

Info-icon
Release channels are used for our Classic Updates service. As of Dec 2021, we started previewing the next generation of our updates service: EAS Update. Learn more.

Introduction

Use release channels in Expo to send out different versions of your application to your users by giving them a URL or configuring your standalone app. You should use release channels if:
  • You have an app in production and need a testing environment.
  • You have multiple versions of your app.

Publish your update on a release channel by running:
Terminal
# Publish to release channel <your-channel>
→ expo publish --release-channel <your-channel>
Your team can see this release channel in the Expo Go app with a parameterized URL https://exp.host/@username/yourApp?release-channel=<your-release-channel>. If you do not specify a release channel, you will publish to the default channel.
A release channel name can only contain lowercase letters, numbers and special characters ., _ and -.

Set your release channel in the build profile in eas.json:
{
  "build": {
    "your-build-profile": {
      "releaseChannel": "your-channel"
    }
  }
}
Then, build your standalone app by running eas build --profile <your-build-profile> with the EAS CLI. The binary produced will only pull releases published under the specified release channel. If you do not specify a release channel, your binary will pull releases from the default release channel.
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Are you using the classic build system? (expo build:[android|ios])
Build your standalone app by running
expo build:ios --release-channel <your-channel>
expo build:android --release-channel <your-channel>
with the Expo CLI. The binary produced will only pull releases published under the specified release channel. If you do not specify a release channel, your binary will pull releases from the default release channel.

You can access the release channel your update is published under with the Updates.releaseChannel field from expo-updates.
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In development in Expo Go, Updates.releaseChannel is always 'default'.

Consider a situation where you have a Staging stack for testing on Expo Go, and a Production stack for pushing through TestFlight, then promoting to the App Store.
On the staging stack, run expo publish --release-channel staging. Your test users can see the staging version of your app by specifying the release channel in the query parameter of the URL (ie)https://exp.host/@username/yourApp?release-channel=staging, then opening the URL in their web browser, and finally scanning the QR code with the Expo Go app. Alternatively, they can open that URL directly on their mobile device.
On the production stack, release v1 of your app by running expo publish --release-channel prod-v1. You can build this version of your app into a standalone ipa by running eas build --platform ios --profile prod with releaseChannel set to prod-v1 in the prod build profile in eas.json:
{
  "build": {
    "prod": {
      "releaseChannel": "prod-v1"
    },
    "staging": {
      "releaseChannel": "staging"
    }
  }
}
You can push updates to your app by publishing to the prod-v1 release channel. The standalone app will update with the most recent compatible version of your app on the prod-v1 release channel.
If you have a new version that you don't want v1 users getting, release v2 of your app by running expo publish --release-channel prod-v2, setting the releaseChannel in your prod build profile to prod-v2, and building again with eas build --platform ios --profile prod. Only users with the prod-v2 ipa will pull releases from that release channel.
Triangle-down-icon
Are you using the classic build system? (expo build:[android|ios])
On the production stack, release v1 of your app by running expo publish --release-channel prod-v1. You can build this version of your app into a standalone ipa by running expo build:ios --release-channel prod-v1. You can push updates to your app by publishing to the prod-v1 release channel. The standalone app will update with the most recent compatible version of your app on the prod-v1 release channel.
If you have a new version that you don't want v1 users getting, release v2 of your app by running expo publish --release-channel prod-v2 and building it with expo build:ios --release-channel prod-v2. Users with the prod-v2 ipa will only be pulling releases from that release channel.
You can continue updating v1 of your app with expo publish --release-channel prod-v1, and users who haven't updated to the latest prod-v2 ipa in the Apple App Store will continue receiving the latest prod-v1 releases.

You can edit the native project's release channel by modifying the EXUpdatesReleaseChannel key in Expo.plist (iOS) or the releaseChannel meta-data tag value in AndroidManifest.xml (Android). Read this guide for more information on configuring updates in a bare app.

Environment variables don't exist explicitly, but you can utilize release channels to make that happen!
Say you have a workflow of releasing builds like this:
Terminal
# Publish to release channel prod-v1expo publish --release-channel prod-v1
# Publish to release channel prod-v2expo publish --release-channel prod-v2
# Publish to release channel prod-v3expo publish --release-channel prod-v3

# Publish to release channel staging-v1expo publish --release-channel staging-v1
# Publish to release channel staging-v2expo publish --release-channel staging-v2
You can create a function that looks for the specific release and adjust your app's behaviour accordingly:
import * as Updates from 'expo-updates';

function getEnvironment() {
  if (Updates.releaseChannel.startsWith('prod')) {
    // matches prod-v1, prod-v2, prod-v3
    return { envName: 'PRODUCTION', dbUrl: 'ccc', apiKey: 'ddd' }; // prod env settings
  } else if (Updates.releaseChannel.startsWith('staging')) {
    // matches staging-v1, staging-v2
    return { envName: 'STAGING', dbUrl: 'eee', apiKey: 'fff' }; // stage env settings
  } else {
    // assume any other release channel is development
    return { envName: 'DEVELOPMENT', dbUrl: 'aaa', apiKey: 'bbb' }; // dev env settings
  }
}