Often it seems that problems on Android are related to Google Play Services: but what is this exactly? Why is it there? Here we walk you through what it is, what it’s used for, and why it’s become indispensable.
Google Play Services: what is it?
Google Play Services is not an application as most people know them. 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 applications; the list goes on.
In short, Google Play Services is an application 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.
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.
Google Play Services thus allows your smartphone to benefit from the latest versions of applications without upgrading to the latest version of Android. This does not include all applications, however; it’s mostly for Google’s homebrewed apps (Gmail, Google+, Google Play, etc.). However, applications 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.
Can I disable it?
As with applications found on Android by default, it is not possible to uninstall it. However, you can disable it: To do this, go to Settings > Applications > All > Google Play Services > Disable.
If the Disable checkbox is grayed out, then you have to carry out an intermediate step: go to Settings > Security > Device administrators and disable the Android Device Manager.
Be careful though! If you read the previous paragraphs, you will know the impact that disabling Google Play Services will have: your applications, including those related to Google, will not function properly or possibly at all. Say goodbye to Google Play and other services offered by Google!
Why does Google Play Services consume battery?
Google Play Services generally consumes between five and ten percent of your battery. In other cases, it’s more alarming: some users have seen Google gobble up 80 - 90 percent of their battery. The problem is that this situation is increasingly common. It usually arises after an Android OS update. The most likely reason is an incompatibility issue between your Android version and that of Google Play Services.
The only solutions are:
- Disable Google Play Services (and suffer the consequences)
- Remove updates to the application (Settings > Applications > All > Google Play Services > 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).
Does that clear things up? Do you have any more questions? Let us know in the comments.