Over the weekend, we spotted some reports that Play Services was eating more than its fair share of folks' batteries. I know, there's a continuous low-level static of Play Services-related battery complaints out there, but the volume and severity of reports picked up substantially, and a COVID-19 contact tracing app is allegedly the cause of the problem. Most of those affected appear to be in Ireland, and the Ireland Health Services Executive (HSE) claims a fix is rolling out now, with 70% of Irish Android devices already updated, and full rollout expected in the next few days.

The level of detail in reports varies, so we're not sure that everyone affected by the uptick in reports is from the country. However, in Ireland, the COVID Tracking Ireland app has been conclusively pegged as the culprit.

For those seeing the issue, battery life over the weekend took a sudden and sharp nosedive. Multiple phone models appear to be affected. In many cases, Google Play Services is listed as causing the battery drain in the related battery statistics pane, though the COVID Tracker Ireland app also appears near the top of the list for some.

Image via @Brainward.

According to the HSE, the problem was caused due to a change in Google Play Services, though it isn't clear if an update tied to a specific version or a server-side change is to blame.

Although the HSE laid the blame for the problem on Google's alleged change, and though some of the reports we saw didn't seem to apply to customers in Ireland, Google was unable to provide us with any additional information or confirmation of those reports at the time of writing. Following the publication of our original story, the HSE provided us with the following statement:

"We were notified on Saturday by some people with Android phones that their batteries were running down quicker than usual. 131,000 people uninstalled the app, but we have already seen over 45,000 people with Android phones install the app over the last few days. The HSE worked with Google and Nearform over the weekend to fix the problem. HSE, NearForm, and Google have also implemented additional measures to improve the resilience of the Exposure Notifications System and ensure that these types of issues will not arise again.

Google informed us yesterday that approximately 70% of Irish Android phones have been updated and the remaining phones should update over the next few days. We would encourage anyone who uninstalled the app at the weekend to download it again this week. Uninstalling the app does not delete any close contacts that were recorded on the phone in the last 14 days. We apologise to anyone that experienced any problems over the weekend."

It sounds like a fix for the issue is rolling out as we speak, and most phones in Ireland should already have it. Folks that uninstalled the app to solve the problem can feel free to reinstall it in the next few days.

The HSE has confirmed to us that a fix for the issue is rolling out, and provided us with a thorough and detailed statement, included just above.