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4 min read 24 comments

Google Play Services: what is it and what is it for?

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.

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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.

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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 P on the horizon, 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.

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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.

24 comments

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  • 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
    device.
    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.


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


  • interesting piece


  • Nice info


  • Mccas 3 months ago 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)?


  • This was a benign article failing to make it clear just how nosy google is with all the permissions we allow using google play services - even allowing it to dial phone numbers and use our cameras. We do not need google play services to use cameras and send text messages or make phone calls, I already have apps for those functions, why should I have to use google play servcies for those same functions? Furthermore, these past two weeks I have had constant warnings that my battery is low, that my RAM is used up and that I have no more storage space, and yet I've only downloaded TWO apps ever since I got this phone, Angry Birds and another which I uninstalled. I know people who download dozens and more dozens of apps. Well, I have 4 GB storage and google play services was using 3 GB in data storage. I erased the data stored. They don't need it. Neither do I.


    • Luke R Aug 31, 2016 Link to comment

      I agree wholeheartedly. Google is nothing more than an invasive Big brother or worse because they're behind the scenes like Google Play services. They take pictures of the stupid little games that I play and place them on my profile. Does that speak enough as to their monopoly and control issues? And that applies to my experience far beyond Android. I wish to God I could rid my life of Google. They may as well be communists or dictators.


      • My comment was not allowed due to content. I basically reiterated what you stated and asked for advice...how can that be innappropriate and contain errors? Geez. Google is big brother on sterouds


  • :y Google play services is frozen, out of commission.. don't know, but isn't working at all.


  • I have been having problems for a few weeks with apps suddenly stopping on my Lenovo TAB 2 A8-50F tablet (I think I am Android 5.1 now), and recently I also started to get error messages from Google Play Services, stating that it needed to be updated, yet there was no link to update. I have spent some time with my tablet today, attempting to troubleshoot, and I even used an article on this site about getting Play Store to work - I deleted the cache for Store and for Services, uninstalled updates for both, restarted my tablet numerous times... I am not getting the Services error right now, but my apps are still crashing all over the place: weather.com, gmail, outlook, yahoo mail, my fitness apps (sparkpeople, FitNotes), Bible/YouVersion... this is so aggravating. Google Calendar finally synced just now, after a week of not doing it, but it "stopped" and crashed when I tried to open up an event. How do I get my apps back to working order??


  • Help!! I have mistankenly disabled my Google play services and apps on my phone are misbehaving, how can I reable it and correct the mistake? I have tried different medium online but its still showing as disable. Its frustrating because most of my apps are going but.


  • Never even gave Google Services a second thought and I still don't have the battery drain.


  • Perhaps the future will require Google to make adjustments to Google Play Services so that it's not such a battery drain when in operation

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