Play Services 4.1 brings better battery life when location reporting is on, and some new features

January 10, 2014
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Google Play Services is now receiving an update to version 4.1, bringing improved battery life when location reporting is active, turn-based multiplayer support, a new Google Drive API, and more.

Play Services is the framework of Google services that developers can use to build and enhance their apps. Last updated following the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, the app runs as a background process giving other apps access to Google-powered features like maps, Google Plus integration, Play Games services, and more. The app is mostly important to Android developers, but updates eventually improve user experience, by allowing devs to create new features and improving performance and battery life.

The 4.1 update offers the following improvements to Play Services, as laid out on the Android Developers blog:

  • Improved battery life when Google Location Reporting is on – many users have been complaining that enabling location reporting drains the battery excessively. Location reporting runs in the background and uses Wi-Fi, cell networks, and GPS to determine the device’s location, which is useful for navigation apps, Google Now, check-in apps, running trackers, and other apps.
  • Turn-based multiplayer – developers can now implement turn-based multiplayer, including asynchronous games, with up to eight players. The way this works is that data is uploaded to Play Services following each turn and shared with other players automatically. This should make it easy for devs to create turn-based games, without having to create the infrastructure from scratch.
  • A preview of the new Google Drive API – opens up access to files stored in Google Drive. Apps will be able to easily read and write files to the user’s Drive account, with the update offering offline support and commonly used interface elements.
  • Google Mobile Ads will be able to better take advantage of location so you are served ads that are more relevant.
  • Improved support for Google Plus integration into apps, with better auto-complete and suggested users lists.

From a user’s perspective, the promise of better battery life is the most exciting, but all new features will eventually contribute to better apps, once devs begin to harness them. The Play Services app should update silently in the following days.

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