Expo Docs

Release Channels

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 release by running:
exp publish --release-channel <your-channel>
with the exp cli. Your users can see this release in the Expo client app with a parameterized URL https://exp.host/@username/yourApp?release-channel=<your-channel>. If you do not specify a channel, you will publish to the default channel.

Build your standalone app by running
exp build:ios --release-channel <your-channel>
exp build:android --release-channel <your-channel>
with the exp cli. The binary produced will only pull releases published under the specified channel. If you do not specify a channel, your binary will pull releases from the default channel.

You can access the channel your release is published under with the releaseChannel field in the manifest object.
Expo.Constants.manifest.releaseChannel does NOT exist in dev mode. It does exist, however when you explicitly publish / build with it.

Consider a situation where you have a Staging stack for testing on Expo Client, and a Production stack for pushing through TestFlight, then promoting to the AppStore.
On the staging stack, run exp publish --release-channel staging. Your test users can see the staging version of your app by specifying the 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 client. Alternatively, they can open that URL directly on their mobile device.
On the production stack, release v1 of your app by running exp publish --release-channel prod-v1. You can build this version of your app into a standalone ipa by running exp build:ios --release-channel prod-v1. You can push updates to your app by publishing to the prod-v1 channel. The standalone app will update with the most recent compatible version of your app on the prod-v1 channel.
If you have a new version that you dont want v1 users getting, release v2 of your app by running exp publish --release-channel prod-v2 and building it with exp build:ios --release-channel prod-v2. Users with the prod-v2 ipa will only be pulling releases from that channel.
You can continue updating v1 of your app with exp publish --release-channel prod-v1, and users who havent updated to the latest prod-v2 ipa in the Apple App Store will continue receiving the latest prod-v1 releases.

Since exp build does not apply to ExpoKit projects, you can edit the native project's release channel manually by modifying the releaseChannel key in EXShell.plist (iOS) or Constants.java (Android).

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:
  • exp publish --release-channel prod-v1
  • exp publish --release-channel prod-v2
  • exp publish --release-channel prod-v3
  • exp publish --release-channel staging-v1
  • exp publish --release-channel staging-v2
You can create a function that looks for the specific release and sets the correct variable.
function getApiUrl(releaseChannel) {
  if (releaseChannel === undefined) return App.apiUrl.dev // since releaseChannels are undefined in dev, return your default.
  if (releaseChannel.indexOf('prod') !== -1) return App.apiUrl.prod // this would pick up prod-v1, prod-v2, prod-v3
  if (releaseChannel.indexOf('staging') !== -1) return App.apiUrl.staging // return staging environment variables