Android Police have recently put up a very informative blog post detailing the changes that Google appear to have made in the latest update to Google Play Services, up to version 6.1, which started rolling out this week. Yes, I know my image is for an older version but none of my devices have 6.1 yet. There are a substantial number of changes that have been uncovered so without further ado, let’s explore some of these.
Perhaps this is a forerunner of Google’s involvement with Simply Secure but we’re seeing some improvement and changes to how we manage our Google accounts on Android devices. One of Simply Secure’s aims is to improve device security without involving steps that many people see as unnecessary or awkward, most notably two step authentication. It looks as though when signing into another device (or attempting to sign in), Google will notify you on your other devices with the option approve or reject the request. We don’t know how this will piece together but perhaps it will be similar to Google Play Music in that you can remotely disconnect a device from a Google account. Related with this is the personal or easy unlock option, which we saw at the Google I/O conference in June. This is the system that allows users to easily unlock our Chromebooks when an Android device is close, either a ‘phone or smartwatch. The code implies that we’ll be able to create safe zones, presumably using WiFi identification or NFC tagged areas (such as an in-car cradle), in addition to using the Bluetooth radio. We’ve already seen Motorola use a similar technology, called Trusted Device.
One exciting potential development that Android Police picked up on is that Google may be preparing Google Drive as a more transparent backup solution for our Android devices. Yes; we can already back up our using a number of different options such as adb backup, Titanium Backup our original manufacturer solutions like HTC Sense’s on-device backup or Samsung KIES. But wouldn’t it be great if we could use something already connected with our device? The code implies that we’ll be able to backup applications, app data, system settings and WiFi passwords… but wait? Doesn’t the Google Backup solution already do this apart from app data? If you’ve ever factory reset a Nexus device, you’ll know what I mean: your WiFi networks and applications are returned back onto the device. There’s no extra detail about what may also be included but whilst I’d like to be excited by this potential development, I see it as more “potential” and less “development.” But where it may be connected is in the device-to-device transfer process. Google may be implementing a much faster device transfer system. This may have its origins in the shelved Android Silver project, as one of the cornerstones of Android Silver was that you’d be able to get your information into your new ‘phone quickly and easily.
One of the features I’m less excited about is the changes that may allow an advert to add something to your Google calendar but only after prompting. This might be a good thing, especially if my local coffee shops get in on the act, but it might not be. There are also some mentions of Nearby, which is a precise location tracking service that’s designed to work when you are close to another contact. Currently, Google’s geofencing technology (that being the part of the location services that tells your device when it is in a location) is rather two dimensional. Google Now can remind you to buy cheesecake when you’re in a grocery store. Nearby will add another element to this such that Google Now may be able to remind you to ask Steve about a work project, when you and Steve are together. Nearby may leverage some of the businesses that Google have been quietly acquiring such as Bump, which knows when two devices are close by WiFi and accelerometer sensors. We can expect Nearby to make an entrance with Google Games, too; the ability to compete against somebody else on the same bus, perhaps.
To wrap up, the key advantage of Google rolling out these changes via an update to Google Play Services is that we don’t have to wait for a software update from our manufacturer, instead the application is silently pushed to our devices. It means that we won’t have to do anything (other than make sure the device is periodically connected to the Internet) in order to take advantage of these new features and and when they are released.