Google began rolling out an update to Google Play Services worldwide this afternoon. Google Play Services 4.4 includes major enhancements to Maps, with the introduction of Street View, and some new features in Location, Games Services, Mobile Ads and the Wallet API. Head on over to the Google Play Store to grab a copy if you don’t have it installed, otherwise, updates have already begun for some device.
We’ve already had a look at some of the changes you’ll see from today’s Maps and Wallet updates. Today’s Google Play Services rollout focuses more on the developer, putting the new tools into their hands, thus serving as a list of features we can expect coming soon to all of our favorite apps.
Google Maps Android API
The most exciting news here is that developers will be able to access Street View imagery, including panoramic views. Programmatic control of zoom and orientation, plus animated camera movements will allow apps to leverage Google’s amazing repository of imagery in unique ways. Simply put, we can expect to find Google Maps driven interactive maps built right into other apps, instead of simply linking a user to the generic Google Maps app. I imagine a dedicated app providing a virtual guided tour of the worlds best outdoor attractions.
The Street View inclusion could be useful for indoor mapping as well, where a shopping mall or museum could provide a dedicated app with a guided virtual tour of their establishment. Further, Google has added features to the Indoor Maps feature of the API, allowing developers to turn off the default floor picker so that they can build their own, and the ability to detect when a new building comes into focus to find the currently-active building and floor. I imagine this will be great for advertisers to display localized product offers within a store, for example, but would also be an excellent tool to assist in finding a specific room within a Hospital.
Google has added two new activity detectors to their Location API. Along with being able to identify when you are driving, riding a bike or on foot, your device will now be able to register when you are specifically walking or running. The next generation of Android powered fitness apps, especially those running Android Wear, should prove increasingly useful thanks to this change.
Google Play Services adds a few new Mobile Ads APIs, allowing publishers to display in-app promotional ads, which enables a user to purchase advertised items directly. They are offering app developers control of targeting users with ads, for example, offering one advertisement for known returning users, and a different ad to new users.
For the Instant Buy API, Google has reduced the difficulty involved in placing a “Buy with Google” button within an app. This should make it easier for vendors to include a Google Wallet purchase option for their products and services.
I saved this one until last, just to string you along. There are no external API changes this time around, but the default requests sending UI has been extended to allow users to select multiple Game Gifts recipients. Google says this will mean more collaboration and social engagement between players of your app, but it may just mean you should expect to see a bunch of Farmville 2 requests from your friends.
As always, Google Play Service will automatically update on your device, or you can grab it from the Google Play Store. Make sure you head over here if you are having any issues. And head on over to the Google Developer blog for the full information on the changes.
There are a few important and exciting features in this rollout, what new tools do you think will prove the most beneficial to your Android experience?