Google Play Services

With API services outside of the core operating system, Google is taking back control of Android

We didn't get a new version of Android this year at Google I/O. You can read all the lamenting and gnashing of teeth over this across the web, so I'll spare you the play by play of how it was supposed to happen (a proverbial lock), but didn't.

Instead, I'll tell you a little bit about what we did get -- a huge updated version of Google's service APIs, which turns out is much better.

Wait. Better? How can an app I never wanted that got magically pushed to my phone be better than a newer, higher number in my about phone screen? That's crazy talk, right?.

Turns out, that little app is a powerful beast. Read on.

What are Google Play Services?

Cloud save

Sitting through the session at Google I/O gets us the answer straight from the folks who write the software  -- and they sum it up nicely. Google Play Services is "a single place that brings in all of Google's APIs on Android 2.2 and above." An API (Application Programming Interface) is a fancy term for special code that's written as a way for one piece of software to communicate with another. Google writes APIs for Android, and app developers use them as a conduit to access many of Android's core features. You'll find APIs in plenty of software projects, both big and little. Having them isn't really anything special.

Currently Google Play Services is at version 5. You probably had no idea things were updating on your phone or tablet all this time, because that's the way it was intended. You don't go looking for the file, it comes and finds you. Every device running Android 2.2 or higher that has official access to Google Play uses these services. That means almost every single one of those 900 million devices that have been activated has a copy of Google Play Services installed. And Google keeps things updated, and pushes these updates out fast, which is part of what makes them so fantastic.

Being under complete and total control from Google means that the folks who built your phone, as well as the carrier you may have bought it from, are completely out of the picture. You won't have to wait six months or more to get the new service APIs. In fact, Google says they are able to get them pushed to the majority of devices in about a week after they are updated. If you take one thing away from all this, knowing that Google decides what the service APIs are, who gets them, and when is the important part.

What do these services do?

Service settings

The meat of the issue. If you watched the Keynote, where Google announced all these ultra-cool and new features for Android (yes, without any version update!) -- features like the new fused location service, the Play Games services, new and improved Google Cloud Messaging or even the new panorama API -- you've seen some of the things that Google Play Services handles. The app installed on your phone allows developers to install some libraries from the SDK, and tap into all this stuff with just a few lines of code. No matter if you're running Ice Cream Sandwich, or Jelly Bean or any version above 2.2, you'll have access to them.

Google not only has pulled these services and their respective APIs out of the OS, it has made it easy for application developers to use them. The past few days here at Google I/O we've seen just how easy it can be to add these features to an app, because Google is doing all the heavy lifting. Developers only need to reference the particular thing they need from the Google Play Services application in their code, and the magic happens when you run it on your phone.

Remember from above we talked about the fantastic part where Google controls these services, and their distribution out to all of our devices? I want you to keep remembering that as you read through. Think how different things would be if you had to depend on your carrier or the people who made your phone to get all this out to you. Yeah, that would suck. This is why such a big update to Google Play Services is more important than a new version of Android -- we got all the cool stuff without waiting for HTC or Samsung, or even worse -- AT&T or Verizon -- to send it to us.

Why it matters to us

Hangouts

For a minute, forget all the complaining about how Hangouts weren't instantly available for everyone at the same time. Most everyone should be good to go by now and have their new Hangouts app. Everyone. Think about that -- Google Talk, a long staple and core feature of the operating system, was updated with a slew of new features without you getting a system-wide update.

Last week, before we came to San Francisco, we were afraid. We were worried that Hangouts would get shown off, and then we would find out that they were part of Android 4.3. This means that most people would be waiting a long, long time for them, and you all would be ready to boil over knowing that your new HTC One or Galaxy S4 wasn't going to get the feature any time soon. And rightfully so, smart phones are expensive.

Instead, 15 minutes after Hangouts was shown off, people were finding it in the Play Store. The same thing will happen when a developer uses the panorama API to build a photosphere viewing app, or someone writes all the new Games functionality into your favorite game. This is much better than a new version you weren't going to get for six months, isn't it?

 
There are 153 comments

jackwagon06 says:

 How can an app I never wanted that got magically pushed to my phone be better than a newer, higher number in my about phone screen? That's crazy talk, right?.

Well said sir. Im sure the next comments will be good......

dwd3885 says:

100% agree. This is awesome.

I was hoping for a new Nexus 7 though.

icebike says:

I've been screaming that Android was too monolithic for years now.

Every other operating system could upgrade key functional parts, and fix bugs without waiting for Dell or HP or Best Buy to push out upgrades. Its long past time this capability came to Android without needing a full system replacement.

Expect some teething pains. Expect them soon, because some of this stuff is arriving on phones even as we speak.

Hangouts is being forced onto every handsets even though it breaks Jabber interoperability and is missing key features like voice chat and sms. Everybody I know hates the complicated interface. This morning I have ACatLogs of LocationManagerService knocking me off of WIFI every 10 seconds.

Maybe Google needs a bit better QC cycle, but repackaging Android so that piecemeal updates can fix problems without waiting for carriers is great.

Now give we Wallet capability on my international One X on AT&T please!

Laxidasical says:

They didn't break Jabber/XMPP integration, they specifically didn't include it on purpose. The long term plan is to make Hangouts more like SMS with a bunch of extra features rather than a traditional messaging client. That's why it requires SMS verification when it is installed.

Also, the interface is extremely simple. There are only two views...a drawer with a list of Hangouts and the actual Hangout itself.

What is confusing is the people it chooses to display by default. Some of them don't even have Hangouts or GTalk, they were pulled directly from my contacts. They should have disabled that until SMS integration was completed.

icebike says:

Saying they didn't break it, in the same sentence where you said they didn't include it is a distinction without a difference.

It use to work. I came to depend on XMPP integration. Instead of including a world wide standard, Google goes out and breaks/dumps what was already there. I manage half a dozen servers that notify me via XMPP of significant events. I have people who use only XMPP. How can they pretend to be a unified messaging app without the world standard built in?

The UI is a mess, regardless of what you think.

Why is the entire contacts screen taken up showing 6 random people? What was wrong with the nice compact list that Talk used? Mess.

Why show people that I can neither SMS to or Talk to? It lists people with Neither and Email address OR a Phone number. Mess.

It uses an exorbitant amount of screen space to show very little information. Mess.

Plastix says:

The UI is great, regardless of what you think. (See what I did there? So easy to confuse personal opinion with fact)

mallyuk says:

Have to agree about the interface. Hangouts are great and all that but if you just want to message a friend like you did on Talk, it's a bit overwhelming now. Needs some options to limit it (online friends only or whatever) for those of us that want to use it like we did Talk.

jdevenberg says:

What you call a mess I call easy to read. I don't want 15 contacts crammed on the screen at once, so small their pictures are useless and the text is a pain to read. I want big, easy to read at a glance information. You may not like it, but I think (opinion, not fact) that you will be in the minority.

frettfreak says:

I read an article on the whole xmpp thing and it sounds like the reason goggle didnt go that route was because of the lack of support from other BIG NAME companies and the new framework and code allows them to do much more. I dont remember who the interview was with, but they basically said that it was a hard decision to make but ultimately had to be done because NO ONE BIG really was using it the way it was intended.

to the UI comment.... you REALLY think the UI is hard? Honestly? I think the UI is beautiful, intuitive, and pretty flashy with all the animations. HUGE step in the right direction IMO. You are saying the talk ui is better? Not be be a dick, but maybe you need an iphone? SImple, and will never change.

peterfares says:

The UI is junk. There are two panes but the right pane changes in an unintuitive way. If you press a contact then the right pane is that conversation. If you then swipe back to the left and press the plus sign the right pane becomes your contact list. And you can't swipe between conversations. The old Talk app was much better.

peterfares says:

I agree. It's a very poor application. I uninstalled it and then unchecked auto update on it in the Play Store. Just a horrible, horrible app.

drewho says:

lol "horrible its soooo horrible" pathetic

Randy Levine says:

the app is fantastically intelligent. So subtle that some bonehead completely miss what's happening here. The app tracks your activity and feed you the most probable information that you would use. The more you use it the smarter it gets. The names that show up have a higher probability that you would want to text that person., and there's no need to cram tons of people on the same real estate.this isn't the only app that incorporate predictive intelligence. It is the trend of late. The app is actually smarter than you are. It knows what you want when you don't know what you want. You're thinking too small.

Sir_Brizz says:

The sorting is ridiculous and really needs to be fixed. I can agree with that. That being said, however, I find the interface quite nice and MUCH better than Talk ever was.

XMPP still works, and will likely work into the future with all the same problems it had communicating with Talk. Let's not fool ourselves, though. Almost no messaging clients even support XMPP anymore, if they ever did. Other people were more than happy to integrate Google's free service as a value add, but there was never any real reciprocation there.

signaltwins says:

Google bought Android and it's taken this long for Google to take control of Android?

How will will it take for Google to take control of Motorola and make a decent phone? :)

mulasien says:

Funny, I was not aware that Android was around before Google CREATED it.

gozirra says:

Initially developed by Android, Inc., which Google backed financially and later bought in 2005, Android was unveiled in 2007 along with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance: a consortium of hardware, software, and telecommunication companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)

Google didn't create Android...DANGER INC. with Andy Rubin did and Google bought it. If you're going to correct someone make sure you know what you're talking about.

gozirra says:

The article linked clearly states that (under History). If you're going to correct someone make sure you know how to read the effin linked article.

bumpandrun says:

I think he was speaking to Mulasien.

tonyFate says:

Wikipedia may be a source but it's not trusted all the time because anyone can create or edit pages and information.

Your argument is moot considering the fact that what he said is correct.

Sir_Brizz says:

Most information there is heavily policed, though. So it can't be entirely trusted, but it can be just as trusted as any stupid encyclopedia that is out of date the day you crack the first binding.

impulse101 says:

he wasn't replying to you. way to learn how to read message boards

1LoudLS says:

ding +1 ^this guy!

BigDinCA says:

It was around and they DID NOT create it.

signaltwins says:

Google didn't invent Android.

...unlike Apple, which invented smartphones and tablets.

or

...unlike Al Gore, who invented the internet

impulse101 says:

LOL wow I hope you are being sarcastic about Apple. Everything they have done has been stolen ideas and there were many tablets years before the square Ipad. Its now officailly embarassing to be seen with an Iphone or Ipad. It is a very embarassing thing.

duddy#WN says:

Haha. Someone's jealous that Apple does it better.

Robbzilla says:

Does WHAT better? Meld divergent technologies into a steaming lump of pretty?

robsawalker says:

Lol love how you question Apple inventing tablets but don't say anything about Al Gore!

judasmachine says:

I know this is OT but the quote about Gore creating the internet has been butchered and soundbited into oblivion. He was part of the commission that helpedgive permission for the Arpanet to be turned into the internet. I'm not defending the guy just saying... As for Apple, love em or hate em they are pretty good at what they do. (Or at least were...)

snookasnoo says:

Wow you have no idea what you are talking about. I'm embarrassed for you and your ignorance.

garl6 says:

smartphones and tablets were around long before apple came into the picture. apple just popularized them due to their brand.

nube_android says:

Yeah they sucked too. They had AWFUL UI's and they were slow laggy and only useful for reading maybe an email or two. And For tablets on windows, well, don't even get me started on that. Stop the apple hate, it's the reason we have android like it is today.

Sir_Brizz says:

That's not necessarily true. Apple just came at the right nexus point and changed things. The reason smartphones (really, PDAs) were so bad before the iPhone has more to do with the crappy hardware that was being used than that nobody had ever thought of a better way of doing things.

Kevindroid says:

I think you'll find apple came first with Eve then tablets came with Moses :)

Bowen84 says:

Massachusetts invented America.

Virginia invented America. Crazy beantown fanboys :D

318sugarhill says:

Hahahahaha.

va2azerik says:

lol, The 757 Jamestown baby! Sup Jerry in da 804.

brendilon says:

That's debatable. Android was backed by Google before Google bought it in '05 and Android had never released a product prior to Google's purchase (it took almost 2 years after Google bought them). Arguably, Android never would have gotten off the ground if Google had not bought the company, so saying that Google created Android would not be much different than saying that Frankenstein created the monster when he brought it to life.

bumpandrun says:

Great analogy +1 :-)

Laxidasical says:

Agreed...it's like a company contracting another company to complete a particular task or service.

snookasnoo says:

That's completely wrong of course but its amusing to see people invent reasons why Google didn't actually buy Android and why smartphones and tablets sucked and were dead in the water before Apple. Face reality.

gozirra says:

So its like Carrier IQ only...?

Only not even remotely similar?

Droidanomix says:

Troll fail.

Lurking_Grue says:

...an API and nothing like Carrier IQ.

gozirra says:

Really? So Google's Android which is by definition open source, releases a change to the operating system that is not only NOT open source, but can be changed at whim by Google without the device owner's permission, without the carrier's permission, without the manufacturer's permission, to give access to core functions of the OS, whenever they feel like it, doesn't sound remotely like Carrier IQ? Obviously the "advertised" functions are different than Carrier IQ's, but then look at the lengths they went to hide that information when it first broke. And what's to say those functions aren't already there, or planned for a future push, without any kind of oversight whatsoever? Call me a troll if you really can't see that.

ScottJ says:

OK. You're a troll.

manimsoblack says:

trololol

What changes to the operating system? These are changes to, and supplied by, Google's closed source suite of applications. The features that Google adds on top of Android just happen to be better than the features others add on top of Android, and are the features everyone wants.

Now they can have them in a more timely manner.

 

FortTech101 says:

When you buy your phone, you agree to certain rules and restrictions. Therefore, Google had the right to do this.

jdevenberg says:

Yes it sounds nothing like Carrier IQ because the biggest issue with Carrier IQ was that no one knew it was on their phone when they bought it, it was completely secret. If the carriers had been transparent about it from the beginning people still wouldn't have liked it, but they probably would have lived with it. Everyone knows Google services are on their phone when they buy an Android phone and they should know that Google will update those services and you will have to accept the update should you want to continue using Google services.

Diskoman says:

Hmmm...I wasn't aware that you didn't have a choice between buying devices with Gapps and devices lacking them. Of course, since Android is open source, you could also roll your own install. The whole point of the article was distinguishing the differences between the core Android OS and Google's proprietary APIs. Did you even understand what you read?

That's not even mentioning that the big hullabaloo with Carrier IQ was the fact that it was installed on the phone by carriers with no disclosure. EVERY consumer can see which devices have the Play Store installed and which don't, so there is no hiding of info going on at all. I guess you are a troll.

snookasnoo says:

You are right of course and Android being open source by any standard definition is highly debatable. If android is open source it's the most closed open source project in history. But Google has the teenagers posting here completely swallowing this nonsense.

Someone doesn't understand the difference between Android and Google Android.

15israellai says:

This. Android is open source and people who dislike the way Google is doing it can install an AOSP ROM on their devices, or buy those Chinese phones without gapps. Otherwise by buying a Google Android phone users agree to this all, which is awesome, btw.

mjmdroid says:

#Aosp and the #ROM you've pre-installed in your phone is two different things, AOSP is always open for anyone to us but the ROM installed on your device is NOT!

slackerjack says:

Well, I view it like this, "this, like many of the new cool whiz bang features, doesn't fix (or even address) the most core problem with Android...Fragmentation. - It does however, make that bitter pill a little easier to swallow." I agree that "fragmentation" isn't Google's issue (per say) - but I'd argue all day long that it's their responsibility to fix it. It almost feels like this is a pause play, giving them more time to figure out the "how the hell do we get Samsung, and Sprint (for example) to push an update out faster," and ultimately, that they've finally acknowledged and started working the problem is good enough for now. I've been concerned about the problem, less than I've been concerned about the stupid "let's hope it works itself out" mentality Google's had about fragmentation (Hope is not a strategy to affect change) - so this is encouraging!

Slacker

jayray78 says:

If you don't see how this addresses fragmentation, you weren't paying attention. Its a straight shot at solving fragmentation. The update to Play Services takes the core OS out of the equation, allowing apps to function independently of the core OS. So now, instead of worrying about an app that can only run Jelly Bean and up, if developed correctly, an app would be able to run on any version of the OS 2.2 and up. So, to the app world, arguably the more important part of the mobile wars, OS version is irrelevant.

slackerjack says:

Addressing and solving are two unique concepts - one is not the other. Again, I think this does address the problem, but solving won't occur until 70% of the devices are on the same bloody platorm with the same bloody functionality. Android 2.2 doesn't offer the same functionality as 4.1, or 4.2 or hell...don't even get me started on the multitidues of tablets still stuck on Honeycomb. Again...it's a good first step - even a leap. But to sugggest this somehow solves fragmentation (which I agree is a bigger "opinion" problem than it is technical) is naive.

TenshiNo says:

Much of the "functionality" you mention, is dependent on this API. It will address this issue *going forward* but, yes, you are correct: older devices that never get updated will not benefit from this change. It's still a good thing.

And I don't see it as Google's responsibility to update the devices. I have a Viewsonic G-Tablet (little knock-off thing) that was never officially updated past 2.2. That's hardly Google's fault. Especially since it's an "unlicensed" version of Android. Out of the box, it doesn't contain any Google Services.

We don't buy these devices from Google. We buy them from the OEM's and carriers. They are the hold-up in getting new versions of Android out to devices. I think a lot of it, honestly, is that Android has taken off more than anyone really expected. With all the devices floating around out there, it's quite the undertaking to try and update them all. This will make that a much more trivial task.

Again, going forward.

slackerjack says:

Oh I don't consider it Google's responsibility per say...but its obvious that Google's going to be the one too have to solve it if the fragmentation stigma is ever going to go away.

z0phi3l says:

This whole fragmentation "stigma" is a construct of Apple trolls who completely ignore the fact that iOS is also a fragmented mess, and a worse mess than anything Google or Android related, with Android I can always root and throw AOSP, Cyanogen Mod, or any other custom ROM, with iOS you ate stuck using only what Apple says, jailbreaking doesn't allow you to install a custom iOS version,because you know closed source and walled gardens

Dr_Emann says:

Windows 95 and Windows 8 don't have the same functionality either. The problem is that phones which would be able to run the newest version of android aren't getting it, because OEM's are lazy. It's okay if older versions of android don't get everything new backported to them, if the only phones running older versions of android are the ones that can't handle the new stuff anyway.

Fuzzypumper says:

You mean like the Chrome browser, which won't run on my Gingerbread phone?
(Yeah, I'd be running Jelly Bean if LG's Quality Control were better and my phone could run it in a stable, reliable fashion.)

bleached says:

Chrom doesn't run on Gingerbread/Froyo yet, but it sounds like it may in the future with this change.

Muzta says:

It's also a fascinating shot across the bow at Amazon and the Kindle as apps that are developed based on Google play services will simply not work on a Kindle

Sir_Brizz says:

Well, that's not entirely true. Developers can just disable those services if the APIs aren't there.

15israellai says:

This does do a lot, but if you were a developer you'd see how severe fragmentation still is. Every time you write an app you have to consider all these versions and the different APIs and capabilities you plan to support.

Sir_Brizz says:

It doesn't require that much though OR effort, though. For some apps, you can select the API for Android 2.2 and run with it. Your app will work on practically everything. For other apps, you can pick 4.0+ (which covers the majority of Android devices) and have the nicer and newer APIs built in to post ICS Android.

Also, by developing on one device you can support dozens of other devices.

turdbogls says:

OK, please correct me if I'm wrong, but here is what i have to say on the fragmentation subject.

IIRC the main "fragmentation" argument was about phones being compatible with app, and other, older OS versioned phones, not being compatible with those same apps. now shouldn't this (as long as the phone is above android 2.2) take care of that.

I dont think the fragmentation "problem" is about the time it takes to push an update to phones, it is having phones that support different things at different times...again, i believe this will take care of most of those issues.

either way, while i dont understand it completely or on the level the developers do....i know this is a pretty big step for android as a whole. and I am completely OK with 4.2.2 still being the latest OS.

wampdog29 says:

Isn't there a bigger problem with the manufacturer of the phone? I mean, sure, the service providers are slow at pushing the updated to the OS, but the manufacturers have all of these bloated UIs layered over top of the OS. I would think that the manufacturer would have to make adjustments to their software in order for the update to Android to run without issue...

brendilon says:

Exactly. Touchwiz DOUBLEs the size of Android on a pone. It's huge and it's bloated, and it's expensive to update. This is why this change is such a big deal. Go around the OEMs and network providers,.

TenshiNo says:

You're *sort of* right. Touchwiz modifies Android, not the Google Play Services. This is exactly the reason that we have the fragmentation issue. Now, individual apps don't communicate with Touchwiz, then communicate with the Google Play Services. Being able to update these "outside" of updating Android itself will mean that you won't have the issues of apps not working on "older" versions of Android.

And, so long as none of the existing API calls get changed, and only new ones added, everything keeps working just like it is :)

"I would think that the manufacturer would have to make adjustments to their software in order for the update to Android to run without issue..."

We're not talking about updating *Android* here, we're talking about updating the API that the apps use to talk to Android's core with out actually updating Android itself.

Dhalgren says:

Exactly right, Jerry. All the young fanboys out there crying over version numbers just need to relax. This is a huge milestone now that Android has come of age and dominating the mobile markets.

CJ Matthews says:

Funny, cause when I go into my apps on my Galaxy Nexus (VZW) and go to Google Play services, it says it's version 3.1.36...

Which is the same version you'll find on a stock Nexus 4.

Are there any overheads to APIs put into "google play services" rather than in the OS ? (I am not a developer, or a troll, this is a genuine question)

vmlinuz says:

You're not wrong, but there are two - related - problems with this:

Given that it's not part of the Android OS, it's closed and proprietary, and at least at the moment it's *mostly* used to access Google services. This is a problem in principle - but also in practice, shown by a very simple example.
Ouya, which is of course based off AOSP, won't be able to access the Google Play Services Game Services For Game Apps Service, or whatever they're calling it. If it was part of the OS, it would be available for all, and if it worked like independent services (e.g. the now-dead OpenFeint) it could either be provided by Ouya (and others) as part of their platform, or bundled with apps. Because it's a proprietary service, but bundled in with the OS, it falls between those two options.

Summary: AOSP is shrinking, the proprietary Google layer above it is growing.

Obviously that's the way Google wants it, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing...

jayray78 says:

The only way that statement would be true is if OUYA wasn't GAPPS compatible. I really don't know enough about it to say either way, but I know that OUYA itself is a niche of android.

Also, where does OUYA get games from if not the Play Store? If it have Play Store access it should have Play Services. They are tied together, if my understanding is correct.

coheedrock1 says:

I feel like you made some good points. However, if you listen to the talk they gave at i/o about the overview of the services, they answered this questions specifically about the AOSP shrinking. This is not what Google is doing. Most of these services, besides maybe the games part, give the developers access to proprietary Google code that Google uses to make there own apps with. Also, this is a great way to kind of have some kind of middle ground to help with fragmentation, not only for consumers but for developers. They will not be slowing down on the AOSP part of android what so ever. Also, my thoughts on the Ouya is if they wanted to piggy back off of things Google was doing they should have got the device certified to access the Google Play store. That is something i think they should have done anyways, but that is another topic. I feel like people complain about the fragmentation and Google tries to help some and then people start complaining about how Google is killing of the AOSP of Android. My thoughts are along the same lines as the person who wrote this article this is a great thing for both consumers and developers and feel the article is great.

What I was trying to ask was if there is a performance hit , are you calling an API that has to call an API. Sorry if this is a stupid question but my programming knowledge only goes as far as "Basic" and "assembly language".

There might be. It's a legit question, that unfortunately I don't have the answer to.

Diskoman says:

With the advents of multi-core processors in even low-mid level Android phones, 1GB+ RAM phones, and the way Android (especially Jelly Bean) handles caching, there should be little to no performance hit. Most phones would simply keep needed code in memory.

AMurray81 says:

I will go out there and ask why would Google release 4.3 or a new nexus now? As things stand they have the competition in the bag.
Its almost a repeat of where Apple were a few years back when Android was in its infancy, all they did was release "S" revisions and minor OS updates

Right now Google are in control, they may wait and see if Apple have anything up their sleeve and then come out with bigger news. From what I have seen with the APIs, Music and Maps Google have added more than enough that will filter down through android in the next few months........your move ;)

rkirmeier says:

I'm guessing there will still be a 4.3 within a month as I don't believe they can address the new bluetooth support via a Google Play services API. I think this is all good news for everyone but I'm hoping with Key Lime Pie they implement multi-windows for tablets! JB is almost perfect on phones and with multi-window support on tablets I would won't crave any other new core OS features... Ok, better wifi handoff too...

Nasko says:

To me this is a play against Amazon. All those new APIs that are not part of android will be inaccessible to them, and the apps published in their app store will literally have to be fragmented from the ones in Google Play.

Think about how much harder it just got to publish the same app in both stores, and if the developer has limited resources, which store are they going to choose. AOSP will not be affected as long as Google Play is installable on the ROM.

If I was amazon i would feel gently screwed right now.

rkirmeier says:

Well Amazon has been screwing Google for some time now as they use Google's open source OS and Bing as the search engine! [Laughing at Amazon right now!!]

Jeff Kibuule says:

Funny thing is, a lot of these game services Amazon had before Google.

Diskoman says:

True, but considering the rate of growth in RPU for Play Store apps and the widespread implementation of these APIs, many developers will code for Play Store Games first. GameCircle will come last, if at all. Think of this as well: many Kindle owners may get disgruntled when they find they can't see or multiplay against most of their friends due to their tablet being siloed in GameCircle. This is definitely not looking good for Amazon.

ichibanrei says:

Man I've been waiting for this for a long time.
I've been playing Symphony of Eternity for ages on my phone and I really hope then implement the cloud save feature. I'd love to just pick up a save where I left off on my phone and play on my N7.
That time is near! Assuming Kemco is on board updating their games. i really hope they are.

Jeff Kibuule says:

As a developer, I still want pre-Android 4.0 devices to be killed so I can rip out all my Android 2.x code which is horrendously hacky since Android had really poor UI standards at the time.

Did anyone see "Android Graphics Performance". It was interesting (understandable to non-devs) and talked about changes in coming versions of android.

Metro1088 says:

An excellent article! Great point. I'm beginning to live Android more and more every day.

Rod Michell says:

@signaltwins - Apple did not invented smartphone too. Let's think for Nokia for example. Which one is first ? And even Nokia is not the smartphone inventor.

Back to the subject. It sounds scary for me some "organization" to update my device so silently. Am I the only one which think that some notification or another mechanism must be used before these "push" updates goes in my device ?

Cheers to everyone.

user7618 says:

It's called sarcasm.

ofutur says:

Just like on BlackBerry 10. Well done Google.

kgh00007 says:

Awesome!

Jerry could you do an article on how Google voice works? I love the way you explain things, how is this all going to integrate in the future? Can I get rid of my talk and text plan and just keep data? Is that coming?

Cheers,

Kev

MrNinjaPanda says:

Do custom ROMS have access to Google Play Services?

stopsign002 says:

If they have access to the Play Store, then yes

morjoie says:

I think Jerry H. makes excellent points about taking core parts of the Android experience out of the OS merry go round. If this makes it easier for developers to work on Android apps, I'm all for it.

That said, I was a little disappointed that more basic end - user improvements in core services weren't announced. There were some exciting changes announced in Maps, but I am still looking for something way simpler - like the ability to store addresses natively in the Navigation app, and to be able to designate a preferred route. I would like to see some updates to Google Voice, like support for MMS, at long last. I really like Google Now, but the idea of it more than its actual implementation. Google Now and I don't always agree on what it thinks I "need." And I get a little frustrated that I can't cut to the chase and just tell Google, rather than suffering through a series of wrong guesses. So the Android team was correct after all. There is still much work to do.

I was initially disappointed that no Nexus 7 refresh and no new OS upgrade were announced. In retrospect, however, I will remember Google I/O 2013 with excitement about the state the platform is in, and even more excitement about the future.

Can you stop saying "Cool stuff", "amazing stuff"!!! anyway, the downward is that it looks like a lot of services that used be handled locally on the phone now is sent to Google site and handled over there. I have no problem with that BUT first of all it slows down the app, and secondly it uses the data cap of the user. Did they mention anything in this regard, when you were there.

z0phi3l says:

Google Play API is installed on the device, did you not read the damn article at all? It's all handled on your device, Google just updates it and can bypass all the carrier and manufacturer's BS is an added bonus

joemd60 says:

Welcome to Android fragmentation.

ScottJ says:

"Fragmentation!" is the "Benghazi!" of the mobile tech world.

codiusprime says:

Bravo. That was fantastic.

Synycalwon says:

I take issue with these stealth auto-updates of core services without my consent. (Just using Android is NOT consent!). This is something Microsoft took some serious heat over years ago with Windows/Microsoft update. IMHO, this is one key area where Android needs to mature and at a minimum provide some type of notification about the updates or better provide the ability to control them (ex. auto-update settings; disable, prompt, or automatic). Same with OTA system updates (even on a Nexus). I shouldn't have to root my devices to stop OTA updates. That functionality should be put into the OS and control given to the end user. It's MY device! Not the carrier's, the manufacturer's or Google's!

ScottJ says:

So, Google doesn't produce an update. People bitch. Google provides a way to get core updates faster. People bitch. The long and short of it, people bitch, no matter what you do so just do what you think is right and let the whiners rant on message boards.

jimbo says:

For you maybe. Most users don't even actively update their apps. It's best for Android and Google for less user involvement the better.

Google knows what's best. Not you Synycalwon.

kitchin says:

you beat me to it jerry, i dont think he understands that he has an android phone and not an iphone.... well done sir

Synycalwon says:

Sure that's one solution if you want a busted phone. But it does nothing to address my point that currently the only other option is to just accept that Google knows best and can push whatever they want to my device at anytime without my knowledge. Imagine the outcry if Microsoft or Apple did that! But when it's Google, it's ok? That's messed up.

rovex says:

Apple, Microsoft and for that matter Canonical DO.

Synycalwon says:

ONLY after you've opted-in to automatic updates. Even so you still have the option to opt back out (turn them off and either forgo them completely) or manually install them on your own. That's all I'm asking for on Android, the OPTION to do the updates manually based on MY needs/wants, NOT Google's. As it stands now, you are automatically opted-in with no choice to opt-out without breaking major functionality of your device.

Actually, this is opt-in. You agree to this when you accept the terms during the first use of Google Play on your device. 

joemd60 says:

I have nothing against fragmentation. But the old saying goes. "Too many cooks, spoil the soup". ;-)

ScottJ says:

Bad invocation of a wheezy idiom.

If the soup is Android nobody is spoiling it. There are just different varieties of soup. Samsung makes Korean soup, HTC makes Taiwanese soup and Motorola makes American soup (is there such a thing?).

drewgalyen says:

Chicken Noodle?

Corn Chowdah. Native to NA at least.

TheDu9du says:

Aww, the reason I bought a Nexus phone is to have those updates readily available. A new version of android would lift my spirit thinking "haha my phone is now better than the S4". So I'm somewhat bombed. I may now have to buy the S4 Google edition to bring my esteem up again. Then again if it comes without smart scroll, them fanbois will be like "your phone doesn't do that" and a little piece of me will die inside.

Any of those eye gimmicks are part of Touchwiz, not Android. The GS4 Google Edition does not have Touchwiz, so it'll have the same software features as The Nexus 4, 7, 10, & Galaxy Nexus. I guarantee you, it will not have Smart Scroll.

Taz89 says:

I knew you would get this jerry.. I've been trying to get this through to so many people on other sites to see this.. Basically with Google play service Google can bring us new features that would normally come with an os update. So now we can get new features without having to be on the latest update... Example we getting new features to Google now via an update where as Apple has to do an os update to do the same for siri... Same with the new games services we getting it just like that where as Apple had to do a full os update for game centre... I seriously can't believe how people can't see this.. I seen on so many tech sites with articles of how I/o was a disappointment because they was no 4.3 but they miss the bigger picture that what Google basically did was update the os without actually updating it.

15israellai says:

So non-approved devices are getting more and more useless.

Diskoman says:

Pretty much...unless you root them and can successfully install Gapps. Google certainly loves all of the Kindles running custom ROMs with Gapps installed lol.

MarkC538 says:

Does this mean I'll be able to use google wallet now?

teejay69 says:

Ok so I'm not as geeky as I thought, but all this talk is really cool, yet somewhat concerning. I'm a consumer who just wants a bad ass phone, and the fact that I have to choose between carriers to get this or that, or to constantly upgrade to a newer better phone is a pain and expensive. I'm pretty sure I'll like having all the cool features for my phone independent of my carrier, and I'll grant I gave permission to Google to do it, but it smacks of a big brother type deal. Sadly I don't think I care. I'm not naive, but I want my phone to give me what I want before I know I need it. I'm not carrying state secrets, I just want what I think I need. Blue pill, red pill? I'm not choosing just yet.

amy green2 says:

Will this hurt Google in the court of law? They always used to the fact that other people can use their operating system, like Amazon. Now when people take the Google Android operating system it won't have a lot of the functionality. Will it make Android look more like a monopoly?

rovex says:

No. Anyone is free to use Android as they please, but there are in effect 2 Android versions, the approved and the non-approved. The Approved is basically Googles Android, and it comes with access to google services. If you dont like it, like Amazon doesnt, then you use your own services.

pennaseo says:

Google bought Android and it's taken this long for Google to take control of Android?

How will will it take for Google to take control of Motorola and make a decent phone?
tenax it are ready to use this thanq.

FifthElement says:

Anyone else have issues with the new Google Play Services? Ever since I got the newer version it's been using up a ton of battery. When I check the Running Apps in my settings the "Google Services" named "GoogleLocationService" is always running and using 7-10MB of RAM. Not to mention the new Google Play Music has a new service which also always runs called "MusicPlaybackService" and takes up 10-15MB of RAM. Google maps has been getting bigger and bigger and now runs 24-7 and uses up 20-40MB of RAM even when it's in the back ground and was never started! The play store does something similar! What the heck are they doing? As they are trying to separate Android from itself they are killing users memory it seems. People with older phones with 1GB or memory of less can sometimes have their phones almost be unusable due to RAM and file sizes of Google apps! Google apps are killing not only my RAM but battery too!

5th

Battery issue seems ok, but the issue that I had on my Nexus 4 was "Couldn't connect to google services. Try again." It may help if you reinstall the updates. Settings--> Apps---> Find Google Play services and uninstall updates. It will then download the newest again and reapply the updates. It worked wonders!

Diskoman says:

I guess it depends on your phone and what else you have installed. One of my phones is a lowly Galaxy Exhibit 4G. It has less than 400MB of memory. I have an AOSP JB ROM installed, and it is running the new Play Store, Play Music, and other Google services just fine. It can lag just a little at times, but on a 1Ghz Scorpion what would you expect? It actually runs just a little better than it used to.

JayND says:

"You probably had no idea things were updating on your phone or tablet all this time"

Not true in my case, Kaspersky lite prompts me to scan whenever ANY program updates on my phone, even Google services. Which is a little odd when ya think about it, a little unnecessary but my inner control freak is pleased.

Excuse the rambling. Anyway this update is nuts. I watched my battery life readout go from 39 to 19%, the battery monitor was saying the OS was used 39% of the battery life in what had to be about a 5 minute span. Whats odd is that Play Services was reading out a measly 2% at the same time, or maybe that isn't odd and I just don't know how to use the battery monitor.

coggster says:

And in answer to your final question, yes it's very good :-)
Even happier I am now back on Android

I am not a developer but this sounds like great news for Android developers. Will this help get us common folk apps when iOS does? For example, Vine has been out for iOS a while now. I hope this helps us get new apps and updates as fast as Apple.

user7618 says:

That would be dependant on the app devs, not Google.

Keith Ables says:

Does this solve the fragmentation problem?

HackNet says:

I don't care for 4.3 right now. I would rather wait another 6 months for a stable clean functioning OS.

bontjes says:

So is this what brings in all those new API's like the location things as well? I only have version 3.0.25 but Jerry mentioned that that the new version is "5".

dchawk81 says:

Theoretically awesome. It drained the heck out of my battery and made my phone run hot though. Uninstalled update, froze default install, all is well again.

Fix it and then we'll have progress. Until then, Play Services can leave me alone.

z0phi3l says:

Sorry but it was not the update that did it, most likely it was an app incompatibility that did it, but hey whatever makes you happy, this isn't iOS after all where you don't have a choice

dchawk81 says:

I went through the process and narrowed it down. It was definitely the update.

dchawk81 says:

It's actually a widespread issue if you..ahem..Google it.

rotkiv3451 says:

Stop defending Google. We wanted a new version of Android, and what they've announced is NOT enough to fulfill that desire.

t_hom_as says:

You missed a key point - sure this allows Google to update core services outside OEM and Carrier interference, but there are major commercial reasons behind it.

1) Deep integration with Google+. This is huge as soon all Android devices will require to have a Google+ account to use the services - that can only help Google+ adoption.

2) This raises the bar drastically for those OEMs who feel they can just fork Android and go without Google. I keep hearing rumours that Samsung will fork the code and steal Android from under Google. This effectively kills that rumour - Samsung don't have the engineering capability (never mind the will nor the infrastructure) to re-create the Google cloud being leveraged here. If Samsung forks Android they'd have to go to Amazon to help them - and better the devil you know right?!

3) Google are now talking the fight to Amazon. They have a richer cloud and are betting the devs will choose the Google cloud over the Amazon cloud (expect T&Cs to state that if you use Google cloud you can't also support another cloud in your app). Better the devil you know right?!

Bottom line - leave Google services behind and you run the risk of leaving most of the Customer, Apps and Developers behind as well.

chosen1_88 says:

So if I'm reading this right, as long as you are running Froyo (2.2) or better, all the APIs required for an app to run will be pushed out to the device, so the whole "Requires ICS or JB" app requirements are now gone?

Could put some new life into my Gingerbread-running Atrix if this is the case.

Hanging in there

jerrod6 says:

I am not an Android developer and I didn't attend Google I/O but I have developed corporate mainframe and client server applications. I think this change has the potential to take Android in a very good direction. Here are my thoughts and it is only MY opinion.

1 Google play services have always been on our phones at least from version 2.2, and have been periodically updated when needed in the background from day one.
I have no need to approve of these updates. If you have ever looked at the Google Web site that lists the tickets the programmers are working on you understand why.
When you go there you see a description of problems, something like: Android.dexcrex.getyomama ended after Android.process.verify completed and returned a null value. Oh....Ah....OK...So..Ummm. In other words I would never know if to accept a change or not because I don’t have the slightest clue what they are talking about..the lights are on but no one is home when it comes to this.

2 Android Play Services looks like it is now included in the developers SDK

3 If we combine items one and two, Play Services being updated on the phone, Play Services in the SDK we end up with the following possibilities:

4 The developer now can include the developer part of these APS in their applications thus taking advantage of new system and operating functions Google is supplying. It will be up to the developer to incorporate these into her/his program.

5 Google will supply the rest of the requirements in the updated Play services app that is on our devices. The combination of these two interacting with the Android kernel is what will provide the upgraded functionality.

6 In the past we would have to get a complete kernel upgrade to enjoy these upgrades but now all we need are steps 4 and 5.

Other possibilities in MY mind and NOT confirmed by any official source:

We, myself included, always want a higher level of the operating system so we can get the new stuff. Now we just need a newer version of the app from the developer that is using this SDK and taking advantage of the play services. We can be sure applications written by Google will include the enhancements.

The stock interface we see on devices. These are displayed by the launcher application....again an app and not in the system so we could potentially see upgrades to the look and actions of our phones too....all without a system upgrade.

Google Play services may become larger on our phone, but there is also the possibility that the kernel can shrink or at least stay the same. It all works out in the end. It is not going to happen over night but it is the first step in that direction.

We will still need to upgrade our hardware not because we want a better operating system and our phone carrier is not interested in it, but because we want and need hardware that can handle increased demand. This is important to me because I don’t want to get a new phone just to get better software if my existing phone can handle it reasonably well.

This takes system version updates to a different place, not that they will never be needed, but do we need a version 4.4 or a version 5 if we can get everything that would be included in these without getting a new number version? Without waiting around hoping a carrier might get interested and push an entire kernel update to us? It also frees the carriers because they will have less to test.

Touchwiz and Sense and all of that can be what they are but anytime you chose to run a non phone vendor application on these phones these applications, provided they are developed correctly should be able to take advantage of the enhancements provided.

So I plan to sit tight and see what happens. Overall I am excited!

Only my thoughts.....Not Gospel I heard from Google so please don't take this as such.

mahdijoon says:

Good

nick13b says:

How about BlackBerry 10?? can BB10 run google play services??

so far not and it is annoying even with snap it does not download any one with a work around let us know