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Google Play Services: the heartbeat of your Android smartphone

Google Play Services: the heartbeat of your Android smartphone

Often it seems that problems on Android are related to Google Play Services, but what is it exactly? Why is it there? Here we walk you through what it is, what it’s used for and why it's indispensable.

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Google Play Services: what is it?

Google Play Services is not an app in the way most people think of apps. When you attempt to open it, nothing will happen. However, it is installed by default on all Android devices. It also sees regular updates, and the number of permissions it requires is impressive. Everything goes: access to and control over SMS, access to sensitive log data, access to all the information from Google apps; the list goes on.

In short, Google Play Services is an app that is very closely linked to the Android system itself.

It's a package of APIs (things that assist programmers and allow apps to easily communicate with other apps) that ensure fewer apps are dependent upon Android OS updates to run.

google play services screenshot
Google Play Services remains mysterious to many Android users. / © AndroidPIT

What does Google Play Services do?

In fact, Google Play Services represents a minor smartphone revolution. Take the example of Google Maps: before Google Play Services, this app was updated when the Android OS was updated. We all know how slow carriers and manufacturers can be when it comes to rolling out updates. Today, there’s no more waiting for updates to Google Maps: they are done automatically through Google Play Services.

AndroidPIT Google chrome tips 2
Google apps, like Chrome, are updated through Google Play Services. / © AndroidPIT

Google Play Services thus allows your smartphone to benefit from the latest versions of apps without upgrading to the latest version of Android. This does not include all apps, however; it’s mostly for Google’s home-brewed apps (Gmail, Google+, Google Play, etc.). However, apps using Google's services, of which there are many, may also be affected.

In essence, it means that any version of Android, from Android 2.2 up, can benefit from new apps and features, independent of updates to the OS. It's essentially a way of fencing in fragmentation and ensuring that as many users as possible can continue to enjoy Android.

It is a change in the operating system that came with Android 4.3 but has continued to grow gradually with new Android updates, particularly with the arrival of Lollipop and Marshmallow. Nowadays, with Android 9.0 Pie widely available, Google Play services has become an absolutely essential part of the Android ecosystem.

Can I disable it?

While it was possible to disable Google Play Services in the past, nowadays it's too indispensable to simply disable on your own: all your Google apps require it to run smoothly. However, it is possible to have your smartphone running completely free of Google apps and services, thanks to the availability of custom ROMS like LineageOS.

Why does Google Play Services consume battery?

Google Play Services generally consumes a low amount of battery, just a few percentage points. However, in other cases, users have seen Google gobble up an inordinate amount of battery after an Android OS update. The most likely reason is an incompatibility issue between your Android version and that of Google Play Services.

Google Play Services can sometimes be a battery killer. / © AndroidPIT

The quickest solutions are:

  • Remove updates to the app (Settings > Applications > All > Google Play Services > three dots menu > Uninstall updates). You might need to head to Settings > Security > Device Administrators and disable Android Device Manager first.
  • Disable the synchronization of Google data (Settings > Accounts. Here, press the menu button (three dots) and disable Auto-sync data).

For a more in-depth guide on how to solve battery problems arising from issues with Google Play Services, check out our dedicated article:

We hope that this has cleared up some of the mystery around this enigmatic app. Do you have any more questions? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Mike 5 months ago Link to comment

    Sounds like BS. I used a disabler to stop Google play services and Google play store from ever running on my phone without my consent. Every app I haven't disabled still works fine without their services.

    One less invasive POS software eating my battery.

    Deactivated Account

  • So if you CAN'T uncheck Find My Phone in Security -> Device Administration because every time you try to uncheck it you get the message "Unfortunately, Settings has stopped" (and all it has is an OK button; no Report or Wait options)... what then?

    Deactivated Account

  • See next.

  • I have a mobile contract with 500MB data per month. I normally only use a tiny fraction of it. Over Christmas we used Google Navigation a couple of times only for a few minutes each, and I was staggered to see that my phone had used 140MB of data whilst my data was turned on for the navigation. However, examining the data usage on my phone, I found that the majority of the 140MB was used by Google Play Services. Only 20MB had been used by Google Navigation. Google Sheets had also apparently used more than 20MB, which mystified me because although I do use Google Sheets on a computer, I have never used it on my phone.
    I have now turned off the setting that allows Google Play Services to sync in the background, but I am still wondering how that will impact my use of the other Android apps.

  • my Motorola Z2 has recently been doing what my lgv10 was doing and that is an audio file will randomly fire off for no apparent reason. Each time it's the same audio file. I delete the audio file and a different one takes its place. After researching extensively no one seems to have a good answer for it so I disabled Google play services.
    It's been about 2 days with no mysterious audio files popping up out of nowhere and my phone works just fine. I only have to deal with the message that says Google play services error popping up. I disregard it.

  • Pls help me!!. Recently i wont to install the version 12.6.85 of google services, but my phone dont installed. says" this app is dont installed". My mobile phone is a Sonuy Xperia XA1, and actually my version of google services is 12.8.76 (040406) pls help me

    • A mi me pasa lo mismo tengo una versión de fabrica más alta que la 12.6.85 y no me deja usar mi tele a mi manera es una especie de bloqueo que no me gusta

  • And also why does the samsung calculator need such intrusive permissions???

  • What are the Google play services modules in my android phone?? Does that mean a certain app was downloaded? And firebase..and also apis..sdks...what is it and what are they used for?? I need more info on these things!! Please help.

  • Google play services performs a number of chores for Google that Google would prefer not be discussed here or anywhere else. Its basically a data theft app which violates the law with spyware which can't/won't/shouldn't be detected by any intrusive government efforts. It can be restricted by any given device owner, but cannot be stopped from operating behind the scenes and steadfastly collecting every byte of data you gnerate on your device.
    All references to Google being "nosy" and such are cute and sweet, but only so if you think it's sweet of Google to steal, sell, barter etc., Your personal info including every photograph you've ever had on your
    This is what Google Play Services is all about.
    It's one ugly situation that people have been put into and it will probably not be changing anytime soon. The political forces against it cannot stand up to those for it simply because the cash or otherwise given monies perform the task of buying the votes of any given forum required to keep the unlawful behaviors of Google in effect.
    It's the same sroey with Microsoft Windows updates. The updates are not about your computers security, but are about simple straight up data theft. That's why even after diabling windows updates they still "try" to update your computer. That faux effort to install updates allows Microsoft the opportunity to invade your computer and update their vast holdings of personal data from every computer user/owner just as if their update theft method was in effect.
    I welcome any comments in support of what I've said herein about Google play services or Microsoft. I also welcome any dissenting views.

    • I agree totally. Google Play Services app is a Trojan, plain and simple. One day, I turned off Sync to save battery, next time I checked...contacts were synced while Sync was disabled. So, I kept checking, and lo and behold...contacts synced every day while disabled. Creep Alert received.

      The nerd in me always roots (I know, I know, but I refuse to be a mere guest account on my $900+tax phone). Root permits me a glimpse inside the Google Play Services processes with certain apps. When I did peek, I found tens of processes dedicated to analytics, logging, and data collection. It's incredulous what they are getting away with.

      Not wishing to delete Google Play Services, I use a root firewall that blocks any data transmission to Google Play Services and Google Play Store, unblocking them if I wish to update an app, then quickly shutting it down. I also use a GPS app that is independent of Google Play Services. I have zero Google Apps on any of my devices.

      A funny side effect is my firewall log, which states in any 24 hour period, Google Play Services will make 3,000+ data requests in a 9-14 hour period. Requests denied.

      Google is up to some extremely creepy things in the background of their devices. People know, yet choose to roll with it. People are funny.

      But, I will stay with Android because I can secure my device/ data from all, including Google.

      On the Microsoft front...I locked Win 10 down (As humanly possible), removed Defender, Cortana, Edge, Explorer, the Windows Store, Office, Windows Media Player, crippled Windows Firewall, deleted 3D whatever, and blocked most telemetry avenues, and Windows Updates is disabled until I am ready. Never open a Microsoft account and link it to your PC...that's the main key, don't invite them in.

      Pretty much the basic operating system is what I have (Which is all I need), with my firewall on paranoid duty, along with my antivirus VPN.

      • Those who think that the comments by Castlerook and Stewart look like conspiracy theories should read the article in the December 9th 2018 New York Times, about location data alone. This is a huge industry, and could easily lead to personal attacks on individual cell phone owners. For one thing, companies that acquire this data can easily allow it to be used by the police, without a warrant. But perhaps more importantly, although the data is said to be anonymous, it is not aggregated. That means that a user number is attached to each telephone, and all of the locations of all days of use of that phone, regardless of whether apps are being used, he's tracked. It is not difficult for anyone 2 find out from the data the identity of the individual being tracked, and in fact the New York Times easily did so in a few minutes work for two individuals from whom they received permission. One easy example of identifying data is that if every night the track of a phone goes to the same residence, it's not a big stretch to find out who lives in that residence and therefore identifies all the behavior of that individual. This could open the individual to black male or other extortion by an unscrupulous employee of any of the companies that have that data.

  • Nice Article. I've learn something new by reading this article.

  • interesting piece

  • Nice info

  • Mccas Jun 13, 2018 Link to comment

    I need to disable Google a play devices while in in China for 4 weeks. If I can't my phone is unusable due to battery drain.Disable is greyed and there is no Device Administrator for Google Play Services visible in security settings Device Administrators. UmidigiZ1, international version. Advice please.

  • Apatently my comment was innappropriate containing errors and not allowed to be posted. I said nothing that was crude, rude, bad language or commented about Google that hasn't been posted. I'm not coming back. I doubt they approve this comment

  • i have been using a blackberry since 2001 right up to the current Blackberry 10 OS. Blackberry have now moved over to Android OS, so i decided to buy a cheap device and see how Android works. I purchased a Sony XA. No real reason other than to try Android.....Comparing the two operating systems have left me amazed that the Blackberry 10 OS didnt sell in the right numbers to make it a success. Android looks and feels like it was built by Fisher Price and the interference and annoying behaviour by google and all the permissions a dumb app needs is shocking and downright bloody wrong. The only thing going for Android are the endless apps available to it. However most of the apps are rubbish and pointless junk. Its an awful OS aimed mainly at children, its just a money making process which is great if your the one making the money. Blackberry 10 OS wins in every other department other than apps for most people but for me it has everything i ever needed.

  • Google play store does not open in my Tablet Canaima.please solve my problem

  • My problem with Google Play Services is not the battery life but it keeps building up 2.5+ gb of data and I have to keep clearing it out. This happens now every other day. I have no idea what this data is, I am not a very heavy user. Anyone else have this problem, and is there anything I can do about it (other than disabling it)?

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