New Google Play Services 5.0 rolls out, updating Androids without a new version of Android


Credit: Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

You probably won’t notice it but if you have an Android phone, it should be getting a behind-the-scenes software update soon. I’m not talking about Android L, which Google just announced last week though. Google Play Services 5.0 is now rolling out worldwide, according to the Google Developer Blog.

On Wednesday, Google(s goog) published a post explaining what’s in Google Play Services 5.0 so that developers can start updating their apps with new features. Here’s the top-level, short description of what’s new:

“This release introduces Android wearable services APIs, Dynamic Security Provider and App Indexing, whilst also including updates to the Google Play game services, Cast, Drive, Wallet, Analytics, and Mobile Ads.”

By updating Google Play Services, Google is effectively adding new features to all Android phones and tablets, regardless of the version of Android they run. The company started taking this approach at last year’s Google I/O, rolling out a ton of new Android functions without actually pushing a full new version of Android. This approach allows a wider range of Android devices — all of them running Android 2.3 or better — to get the newest features and turns the “how many Android phones actually run the latest OS version” argument into a bit of a moot point.

Photo by Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

Photo by Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

Clearly, the wearable services API is important now because pre-orders for the new Android Wear smartwatches start shipping next week. App indexing is part of the deep app linking strategy we’ve covered prior: Web search results can include links to open relevant apps automatically. Google Play games gain the Quests and Saved Games support announced last week at Google I/O while Google Wallet will be able to save offers and supports geo-fenced in-store notifications. That’s just a taste of what’s inside: Google explains all of the new features in a short video:

Obviously, it’s up to developers to take advantage of the new Google Play Services 5.0 and this doesn’t quite take the place of everything coming in Android L. But it’s a step towards upgrading a mass amount of Android devices without needing to wait for handset makers or carriers to approve a software update.


Everyone saying :they are just updating apps, it is a compromise” doesnt understand what google did.

They divorced the OS into two pieces. Google controls all the features and api’s, even if manufactures dont upgrade the kernel and drivers.

The bigger problem is the tech communities blindness to the change. Everyone cares more about “being able to run the newest software” instead of the reality of the situation.


“But it’s a step towards upgrading a mass amount of Android devices without needing to wait for handset makers or carriers to approve a software update.”

It’s not a step towards anything. It’s a compromise. Be honest and state it as such.

Kevin C. Tofel

Sure it’s a compromise. Why is that a “bad” thing, though? Often, the best solutions are compromises where both sides win.

Alternatively: Do you think Google shouldn’t compromise and should instead simply screw over device owners that can’t get a software update from their carrier or handset maker? I think tens of millions of people would disagree with you if said yes. ;)


“This approach … turns the “how many Android phones actually run the latest OS version” argument into a bit of a moot point.”

You’re joking.

This is nowhere near the same thing. It does not add all of the new operating system features that have been added since earlier releases. This, OS features/core API changes, is what fundamentally makes a new OS better than the old, not just new apps…

You are clearly misrepresenting the issue and taking a biased position, as you did in your previous article, “How Google cleverly improved Android without releasing Android 4.3 at Google I/O”. I look for honesty and fairness in news. That’s not what I’ve found here.

Yeah sure they are allowing you to take advantage of new gaming and wearable APIs but this is not at all the same thing.

I’ll give it to Google – this is a clever work-around to their fragmentation problem but that’s all it is – a work-around. It’s not a solution.


Play Services is the same old work around for people who can’t, or won’t, upgrade their OS that was tried on desktops (e.g. .Net and Java). It isn’t a real solution, just adds more version confusion, creates more software conflicts, and does nothing for OS level vulnerabilities. New features are nice to get quickly, but it will be a headache for developers and users eventually.

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