Google Play Services: A Developer’s Playground

Google Play Services: A Developer’s Playground image google servicesGoogle Play Services: A Developer’s Playground

The Android operating system just got a lot more functional, and it’s all thanks to Google Play Services. In addition to streamlining the Google suite for Android users, this program gives developers the ability to augment and improve Google-powered apps like Maps, Gmail, Drive and Google+.

But Google Play Services isn’t just for those of us who are excited to tinker around with source codes. The main purpose of this app is to make sure individual Google apps run as smoothly and harmoniously on your phone as they do on your desktop. Google Play Services is the WD-40 that allows for a smooth transition, whether you’re an Android developer or an average Joe.

Extending Android with Google Play Services

As Joe Levi notes at Pocketnow, Google’s recent I/O conference was the anticipated moment for Google to announce a new version of the Android OS. Instead, Google released something that Android developers end users may like even more. That “thing” being Google Play Services.

To casual users, APIs are invisible allies for their mobile devices. They don’t allow direct access to the apps, but they do provide the framework for some potentially exciting add-ons. The newly enhanced Google Play Services APIs allow Android developers to build a host of services directly into their apps.

These new or enhanced services range from Google+ support to gaming. Among them is Google Cloud Messaging, which communicates between apps and their back ends. By syncing notifications among devices, it’ll save users from having to deal with notifications they already addressed from a different device.

Location, location, location

The most noteworthy of these new APIs are probably the ones that work with Google Maps and its related geolocation services. The most remarkable may be Activity Recognition, which uses in-device sensors to determine how the user is getting around: on foot, cycling or in a car. Apps can then respond appropriately by providing local parking guidance for drivers or safe bike routes for peddlers.

Another handy API is Fused Location Provider, which gathers faster device location data with less power. And then there’s geofencing, which allows developers to define areas around specific locations (say a favorite restaurant), and trigger actions when the user crosses the “fence.” This feature would enable restaurants to list their daily specials for nearby diners or help boutiques woo window shoppers by offering special promotions to anyone passing their storefront.

APIs and version independence

The nicest thing about Android’s APIs is their ability to work on multiple versions of the operating system. Features can work on operating systems as outdated as 2.2 or as new as 4.2 (which is too advanced for any devices currently on the market).

The one small concern is that these capabilities rely on device performance. Low-end Android phones and tablets may lack necessary sensors, speed or memory to make good use of the new programs. But for nearly all Android developers, Google Play Services will be a powerful new tool for providing Android users with new resources.

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