Google Play Services and Firebase will go hand-in-hand moving forward when it comes to creating Android apps. Firebase will include the Android SDKs developers are familiar with, but Google will still continue to release new versions of Play Services and associated SDKs on a regular basis. In fact, Google says Firebase was built using Play Services 9.0. The latest in Play Services includes a handful of new and important tools. Here's the deal.
First, Google updated the Player Stats API. Google says the Player Stats API now has "predictive analytics" that help developers identify which groups of players will spend more money to play the game, or churn away in another title. The analytics are able to reveal how much a player is likely to spend over a four-week period, and help provide insight on which players are likely to be the highest spenders. This way, claims Google, developers can tailor their in-game experiences for these players to increase spend/engagement.
Second, Google debuted the Video Recording API. This new API for Play Services 9.0 makes it simple for developers to add video recording capabilites to their app. Beyond a simple video recorder, the Video Recording API also makes it a snap for end suers to share videos to YouTube via the sharing menu. Google says it plans to update this API further with live video streaming functions in the coming months. Google believes this will be compelling for game developers who want their players to stream gameplay to YouTube (rather than Twitch).
Does your app pay the bills through advertisements? If so, you'll be happy to know that Play Services 9.0 adds a host of improvements. Perhaps most importantly, there's a new native ads format that Google calls Native Ads Express. Google says this new tool lets publishers define CSS templates for their ad units, including fonts, colors, positioning, and so on. Google's AdMob pairs these with advertiser assets, such as headlines or calls to action. This should, according to Google, move the work of customizing ad presentation off the device and bring it up to the cloud. That means less mobile code, and less app overhead on the device. Google says a new Initialization Method should help publishers jump into the Native Ads Express SDK with less trouble.
Last, Play Services 9.0 improves how Google and Android handle beacons. Beacons are a location-based tool that retailers can put to use to send alerts to Android handsets when they roam nearby. Play Services 9.0 introduces Nearby Messages, a way for retailers to set up promotions that can be pushed out autoamtically without draining phone resources. Nearby Messages doesn't ask the end user for any additional permissions, but Google suggests developers check location permissions prior to firing off messages.
Unlike earlier versions, Google hasn't begun to distribute Play Services 9.0 to end users just yet. Google says more APIs for Play Services are on the way.