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What are Google Play Services and what are they for?

22 mayo, 2021

Google Play services are pre-installed on all Android phones launched with Play Store. They have been with us since the beginning of Android, although generally we only remember them twice: when they are missing or when they consume a lot of battery.

While almost everyone has heard of Google Play services at some point, sometimes it may not be very clear what exactly are they or why do you need them on your mobile. For example, what services are they?

What are Google Play services

Google Play Services or Google Play Services is a library created by Google through which developers can easily take advantage of Google APIs and services. Present since almost the beginning of Android, its creation and publication on Google Play was one of the first attempts to tackle Android fragmentation.

It is something like the link between Android and Google

It could be said that they are something like the link between Android and Google. While Android code only receives a couple of updates during the life of a device, Google services evolve rapidly and Google Services ensures that the system can still take advantage of them despite not updating.

In this way, a developer who wants to add functions such as Google’s improved location does not need to implement the logic in each application, but instead takes advantage of Google Play Services instead, achieving unified behavior across different versions of Android and devices.

Play Services Diagram

Google Play Services are updated through Google Play, so that the older versions of Android, already abandoned to their fate, continue to have access to the latest news in any of the services included and that we will see below.

Currently, the backward compatibility of Google Play services goes up to Android Jellybean 4.1, allowing current apps to run smoothly on seven-year-old versions of Android.

What are Google Play services for?

Googleplay services

Okay, this is all very well, but what exactly are they for? As an application developer The advantage is clear, since it represents a standardized and abstract way of accessing advanced functions such as location, maps or login without having to include the code in each application, which would considerably increase the size and complexity of any project.

Is it possible to use an Android mobile without Google apps?

As a user, Google Play Services also bring us advantages. To begin with, many of the applications that we use every day make use of them, and if each of them needed to include the code for all the Google functions they need inside, they would take up much more space in our storage.

Google Play Services help extend the life of an Android mobile

This also supposes a single entry point to communicate with Google and not fifty -one for each app- which is more efficient when it comes to ensuring our battery and data use. on our mobile.

However, the big difference is in the way that Google Services is separated from the operating system and is updated from Google Play. Thanks to this, mobiles with outdated Android versions can continue to use basic functions and current applications (as long as its developers have included the support).

What are Google Play Services

Playservices

Part of what makes Google Play Services so enigmatic is that Google has never elaborated a complete list about what they are. Its somewhat outdated description on Google Play indicates that it provides essential functions such as “Google service authentication, contact syncing, access to the latest full user privacy settings, and location-based services with less energy consumption and higher quality “.

It is not that they are a secret, but that the components or the APIs that it opens for developers can be a somewhat abstract concept for ordinary users. However, if you’re curious, these are all services included in Google Play Services today and according to its official documentation:

  • Ads, support for Google’s advertising platform to display banners in apps.

  • Analytics, adds support for recording statistics in Google Analytics.

  • App Indexing, allows developers to link their app to Google searches.

  • Auth, identification with Google accounts.

  • Awareness, API so that developers can obtain details of the environment such as time, location, place or time.

  • Basement, the core of Google support.

  • Cast, allows interaction with Google Cast devices, such as a Chromecast.

  • Drive, includes support with Google Drive online storage.

  • Fido, adds support for the FIDO and FIDO2 secure identification system.

  • Fitness, the Google Fit Health and Sports APIs.

  • Games, adds support for various in-game functionalities, such as multiplayer support or achievements.

  • GCM, is the acronym for Global Cloud Messaging and, although it has been replaced by Firebase FCM, it serves, among other things, to send notifications in real time (for example, in messaging apps).

  • Identity, allows an app to obtain the user’s address.

  • Instant apps, adds support for Instant Applications.

  • Location, Google’s enhanced location service.

  • Maps, adds the Google Maps SDK by which developers can include maps, calculate routes and the like.

  • Nearby, allows communication with nearby devices.

  • Panorama, adds support for a panoramic image viewer.

  • Places, the Google Places API, to get places autocomplete or information about places on a map.

  • Plus, includes – or included – support for Google+.

  • Safety Net, Google’s security check, which ensures that the system meets certain security requirements (for example, that it is not rooted).

  • Tag Manager, adds support for Google Tag Manager, which is used to attribute where the user came from to the application.

  • Tasks, not related to Google Tasks, but adds support for tasks when programming the application.

  • View, visual identification functions such as QR code reading, text or face recognition.

  • Wallet, adds support for Google payment services.

  • Wearable, includes support for communication with Wear OS devices.

  • Firebase, is a package of cloud services such as data storage, identification, statistics, real-time messaging or image recognition services.

As you can see from the list above, Google Play services are the gateway to a multitude of functions present in applications that we use every day. As they are pre-installed on most Android mobiles in the West, it is common for developers to take advantage of them instead of programming their functionality in duplicate, which means that many apps will not work without them.