What you need to know
- Google has announced that it will be using Google Play Services to push the COVID-19 tracking system to Android phones.
- The updates will be rolled out to all Android phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and above.
- The first phase of Google and Apple's Bluetooth contact tracking framework is due next month.
Google joined hands with Apple last week to help governments and health agencies fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The two tech giants are working on contact tracing technology with protections for user privacy. As per a report from The Verge, Google has now confirmed that it will be updating Android phones with the upcoming contact tracing system via Google Play Services.
Google's decision to push the contact tracing system to Android phones via Google Play services certainly doesn't surprise us, since it is pretty much the only way that the company can ensure the system is rolled out to Android phones within a reasonable time frame.
Unfortunately, however, this also means that the technology will not be directly rolled out to Android phones sold in China, as well as Huawei phones sold around the world. While Google's Play services are banned in China, Huawei's latest phones do not ship with Google Play services due to the imposition of a trade ban by the U.S. Google plans to publish a framework for Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers, which will allow them to replicate the tracking system that it is developing in partnership with Apple.
In the first phase, which is due in May, Google will be rolling out APIs via Google Play Services to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using official apps from public health authorities. In the second phase, the APIs will be built into the operating system, which would allow more individuals to participate in the Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform. The second phase is due "in the coming months."