Google Updates Play Services APIs

Eric Zeman
Mar. 18 2014, 09:00AM EDT

Google has begun distributing a new release of Google Play Services to all Android devices, and along with it made a new SDK available to developers with a handful of new APIs. The main additions include a Google Analytics API, Tag Manager, Address API, Google Drive API, and updated support for Google Play Games. Google Play Services 4.3 is being pushed to hardware already running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and up. This encompasses the bulk of smartphones and tablets in use today.

Perhaps the biggest portion of the new SDK pertains to Google Play Games. Coinciding with the Gaming Developer Conference taking place in San Francisco this week, Google showed off wide new powers coming to its gaming platform.

New features include game gifts, which let players send virtual in-game requests to anyone in their Google+ circles. The tool makes it possible for gamers to request a wish from other gamers, as well. These game gifts can be anything that might benefit another player. Google thinks this is a great way to encourage engagement among gamers, especially within multi-player games. Google also extended the multi-player support of Play Games to iOS - which significantly expands the reach for developers. (More info is available)

Google is making it easier for developers to sink their hooks into Google Drive, its online document and storage service. The Google Drive for Android API adds three significant tools. First, Pinning. This feature lets users designate files that always need to be kept up-to-date on the local device, even when offline. Second, App Folders. This function lets apps create unseeable folders for storing temporary documents, such as photos as they are being edited in an editor app. Third, Change Notifications. This API lets developers register a callback to receive notifications when a file or folder has been changed. In other words, apps can be prevented from continuously checking Drive to see if there are changes. Google also made it easier for developers to access metadata of Drive documents.

The Address API allows developers to request access to addresses. This means apps can offer broader reach into the local contact database when filling out forms, for example. Google says the API includes a convenient user interface component that lets people fill out entire forms by selecting a single address. This API is meant to help when location data isn't available, or if the user wants to use an address other than their current location. Google believes this will benefit mobile shopping apps.

Last, Google added the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager APIs to the Play Services bundle. These APIs have been available outside of Play Services for some time, but Google saw fit to add them into the mix. Google Analytics lets developers get detailed statistics on how their app is being used by Android device owners. Google Tag Manager lets developers change characteristics of their app (such as colors or fonts) on-the-fly without requiring an update from Google Play.

Details about all the changes can be found here.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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