Google hasn’t been sitting idle since its developer event last week. Instead, it has started to push an update to Google Play Services out around the world for all devices running Android 2.3 or better. Aside from a few outliers, that’s the vast majority of phones and tablets running Android; Google’s way of improving Android without actually pushing a new version of Android.
The company did the same last year as it attempted to reduce the version fragmentation issues that have proved troublesome. This time around, devices are getting Google Play Services 5.0, which brings several new things to Android, no matter how old your device is. Included in the update are “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,” according to Google.
I’ve already seen the benefits Google Play Services 5.0 brings with the “Save Game” function in Play Games. It was getting old having to restart at the first level of a game when switching devices; something I do often for review purposes. (Note: I currently have the $299 Huawei Ascend Mate2 in hand; stay tuned next week for my thoughts on this 6.1-inch handset.) Updated APIs for wearable devices are also welcome since Android Wear devices will be in consumer’s hands later this week.
In fact, Google released the first Android Wear apps for smartwatches not long after the Play Services update was pushed. Two-dozen apps initially hit the Play Store but more have already been added. Many include simple notifications from their previously existing apps but some also include more functionality: Allthecooks Recipies shows step-by-step instructions and full ingredients lists on the watch; swiping a step on the watch advances the recipe on your connected phone or tablet. It’s a clever implementation.
Also clever is how Google addressed battery life with Android L, the next version of its mobile software. The company took a long, hard look at how different hardware components use power and it created special APIs and services for developers to use that can save battery life. In a standard browsing test, Ars Technica found that a Nexus 5 phone could run for 36 percent longer with Android L than with Android 4.4 KitKat. Simply upgrading to Android L could add more time for your phone or tablet to run while off the charger.