Google Play Services 8.3 Gives Devs More Control Over Sign-In

Google this week began updating the majority of Android devices to Play Services 8.3. The updated APIs impact a number of services and features across the Android platform that developers should be aware of moving forward. 

To start, Google overhauled the Sign In with Google APIs. Google says the changes should lead to a streamlined sign-in experience for end users on their devices. The biggest adjustment impacts device accounts permissions for devices running Marshmallow -- a key part of Google's new version of Android. The revised Sign In with Google API should lower the friction of convincing users to add their account details to your app. 

Google was sure to update its branding, too. (Surely you've noticed Google's new logo and design changes.) This means developers who adopt Play Services 8.3 will give their users a more consistent experience. Notably, Google updated the sign-in button.

The process has been simplified compared to the previous system, which required several steps across several different screens. Perhaps most significantly, it eliminates the need for users to create Google+ accounts, long a sore point among Android owners. Now, a single tap accomplishes everything.

Play Services 8.3 make changes to the Smart Lock APIs, as well. Chiefly, Google added a new API method to reveal dialog boxes during the sign-up process. Now, users will be able to select an email address they've previously used on the device to fill in account details. This can help speed up sign-in thanks to pre-populated text fields, including name, address, phone number, and email. This method doesn't require any individual device permissions. Were individual permissions required, Marshmallow would mandate a separate runtime for approval. Now, users can just tap their way through with minimal text entry.  

Again, Play Services 8.3 eases the account creation and sign-up process, making it less step-laden for end users. 

Moving on from the sign-in process, Play Services 8.3 makes a great change to how location data is culled and maintained. The Fused Location Provider, which has forever pulled data from location sensors, GPS, WiFi, and cellular signals, packages everything together into a single API. Google updated the API with respect to batch data collection. Previously, the FLP API saved power by consolidating network traffic. The end result, however, ended in lost location data when the batch was cleared from memory. Now, the flushLocations and removeLocationUpdates method calls on the FusedLocationProviderApi for more details and retains location data. 

Play Services 8.3 also simplifies the coding behind App Invites. App Invites are a user-facing tool that allows users share apps easily with others. According to Google, the revised API lets developers take advantage of the AppInvite.AppInviteApi.getInvitation() method.  This sets up a ResultCallback that developers can use to launch deep link activity.

Remember the Play Games Stats API that Google released a few weeks ago? That's been tweaked, too. The new version gives developers a better idea of when users may be ready to quit the game, which can enable game writers to offer incentives to keep the gamer engaged. 

Last, but not least, an adjustment to Android Wear APIs. Google updated the DataAPI for wearables. This will help preserve battery life thanks to a re-prioritization of how the API calls for data syncing across apps. A separate change to the same API adds filter support, which lets listeners to receive only a subset of changes between phones and watches, further increasing power efficiency.

There you have it, folks, Play Services 8.3, already installed on most Android devices. Feel free to grab the updated SDK and get to work. 

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