Google I/O was pretty amazing this year, right? We got the deets on Material design, a preview version of Android L, the formal release of Android Wear, the first manifestations of Android TV and Android Auto, and plenty of other bits and pieces. However, all of that content and all of those developer sessions can take forever to absorb, and professional developers just don't have time for that. Now that all of the videos have been posted, I've combed through every last one to narrow the list down to just the sessions that absolutely can't be missed.
Google Play Services is that app on your phone that doesn't look like it does anything, but actually does a lot of things. This is how Google rolls out new services and features to the core of Android sans OS updates. Today we've got the details on Play Services v5.0. This covers some of the features Google announced in the I/O keynote and a few smaller ones as well.
There should be no doubt, Google is getting ready to make a lot of announcements at I/O. If we've learned anything from past experiences, Google starts packing its apps full of surprises in the weeks leading up to the big show. The latest update to Play Services started rolling out yesterday and it has grown by a whopping 4 MB, almost 30% larger than the previous version. There's obviously a lot of stuff to look at, so let's just jump right in.
Google's previously announced enhancement to the Verify Apps framework is rolling out to users now, according to the official Android blog. Your device already has the standard Verify Apps system built-in that scans at the time of installation, but the new version will be watching all the time for suspicious activity.
Verify Apps compares each app you install with known malware signatures, but there's always a possibility you are downloading a form of malware that hasn't been identified yet.
An update to Google Play Services is now being released to devices worldwide. This release will be more of interest to developers than end users, but there is actually quite a lot here. In addition to some updates to Play Games services and the Drive API, Google has brought Analytics, Tag Manger, and a new Address API into the fold as well.
Google Play Games
The big story here is the addition of game gifts.
Android malware isn't as big of a concern as some mainstream media reports would have you believe, but it is enough of an issue that Google started beefing up its security a few years ago. There's the "Bouncer" server-side scanning that checks apps before they go live, and your device runs app verification as new packages are installed. Now Google is about to patch a hole in the local app scanning by making it run continuously.
The recent release of Google Play Services 4.2 brought with it some exciting additions like the official Cast API and significantly improved support for Google Drive. One of the lesser publicized additions is the official launch of GoogleApiClient, a new component intended to simplify setting up and managing connections to Google's assorted API endpoints. Additionally, there is now support for queuing up read-only queries and a choice of executing calls synchronously or asynchronously.
The Google Cast SDK is only just escaping its confines as a developer preview, so it’s not surprising to see a few bugs turning up in some odd places. A couple of simple, but potentially telling glitches started appearing after Google Play Services 4.2 began rolling out a few days ago. This latest update is causing the list of Cast targets to fill with incompatible DLNA-enabled devices and duplicate Chromecasts.
Sometimes relatively insignificant software bugs come together in what can only be described as a perfect storm, wreaking havoc and leaving the victims without recourse. Only a few days after the KitKat announcement, complaints of some rather odd behavior on Nexus devices (mostly Nexus 4s) running Android 4.3 started popping up around XDA, the Google Product Forum, and the AOSP Issue Tracker. People were waking up to find alarms failing to go off and most of their apps crashing instantly.
If you're noticing some fishy battery behavior today, and it looks like Google Play Services is the culprit, you aren't alone. Throughout the day, users have been reporting extraordinary battery use by the usually innocuous services app, accounting for up to 50% of battery usage. It would seem that, for reasons unknown, Play Services is keeping users' devices awake for incredible lengths of time. Some users report that location is disabled on their devices, ruling that out as a suspect for the increased battery drain.