Google Play Services 8.1 Adds New APIs

Google has released Google Play Services 8.1. The updated core lands just weeks before Android 6.0 Marshmallow makes its big debut. Play Services 8.1 and the associated SDK will let developers access features specific to Marshmallow. 

The big change pertains to Marshmallow permissions. Android 6.0 introduces new ways for apps and end users to handle permissions. Google says it is paramount for developers to make sure their apps adopt the new permissions model to "give users control over the permissions your app needs." 

Google warns that apps running through versions of Play Services prior to 8.1 need to be updated as soon as possible in order to maintain compatibility with Android 6.0. Only then will they be able to properly manage permission flows. Google has a detailed guide available here

Play Services 8.1 Has Plenty More to Like

The SDK includes a new API for managing Play Games Player Stats. Google says the API allows developers to create unique experiences for certain classes of users. For example, game writers can reward returning users with special gameplay or awards. Developers can manage the entire lifecycle users experience as they move through the game.

A new feature called App Invites promises to help developers reach new users by allowing Android (and iOS) users to invite their friends to try the app. Invitations are sent from within the app via Gmail or SMS. Developers will be able to customize the invitation screen to include images and action buttons for easy installs. The idea is to make app recommendations easier for people to use.

Another function called Google Nearby lets apps perform limited interactions with other nearby Google devices. As Google explains, this "allows your app to receive callbacks when an active Nearby publish or subscribe expires. This frees you from tracking the TTL and allows your app's UI."

Play Services 8.1 also brings some goodies to Android Wear. The Google Maps Android APITrack this API has been imporved with support for ambient mode. Ambient mode keeps the screen illuminated with a simple, low-color map render. The benefit here is a reduction in power requirements while maintaining the camera and zoom levels for the sake of context. 

Google warns of several alterations to APIs. The GoogleApiClient and PendingResult have been abstracted, which Google says may lead to breakage in app code. Google says developers need to be attentive to their code to ensure it is clean. 

Google is encouraging developers to download the revised Google Play Services SDK for the Android SDK Manager. WIth Android 6.0 Marshmallow perched for release, early adopters will be anxious to give the new platform a whirl. Make sure your apps are compatible. 

Be sure to read the next Smartphone article: Google Winding Down Android 6 Dev Preview as Marshmallow Launch Nears


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