Sep 24th, 2015

Android 6.0 Marshmallow is right around the corner and now that the rollout of Google Play services 8.1 has finally finished, Google wants to bring developers up to speed on the latest changes introduced in the updated Play services SDK. Detailed on the official Android Developers Blog, most of these changes are useful new APIs for devs to take advantage of, while some other changes could break some things unless addressed before Marshmallow arrives. Here’s what’s new.

  • Marshmallow Permissions – We’ve known about this one since Google I/O and allows users to control which permissions can run on their devices. Of course Android devs will need to properly implement this if they hope for a good user experience. Google urges all devs to update their Play services SDK to 8.1 to avoid any potential issues.
  • App Invites – Simply put, App Invites is a way for users to invite their contacts to try an app or game out. In Google Play services 8.1, developers can set a custom email invites, along with custom images and even a “call-to-action” button.
  • Ambient Mode Maps – A new feature in Android Wear allows apps to display in “ambient mode,” essentially black and white version of app/watchface being displayed. For Google Play services 8.1, the Google Maps Android API now officially supports ambient mode showing a simplified version of the map being viewed. This should help reduce battery drain with fewer pixels to light, while still showing all the relevant information at a glance.
  • Nearby Status Listener – Known as Google Nearby (which was introduced in the last release), developers with Nearby Messaging in their apps can now use their app’s UI to display whether or not Nearby is enabled or disabled. Also new in the Nearby Messaging API is the ability for an app to be notified when a publication or subscription times out.
  • Play Games Player Stats API – Google is introducing a new Play Games Player Stats API as a way for developers to build smarter games. Basically, a game can keep track of the individual player, categorizing them into 3 main segments: how much they spend, their engagement, and their progression. This allows developers to create unique rewards such as bonus items, or hints on advancing past a tough level they’re repeatedly dying on.

Google also revealed a few “Breaking Changes,” that is, changes to the GoogleApiClient and PendingResult which could break changes in an app’s code. For more on handling these potential code breaks, developers will need to check out the release notes here.

And that should just about cover everything. The now updated Google Play services 8.1 SDK is now officially available to download. Devs can get started by jumping into their Android SDK Manager right now. For more, check out Google’s new YouTube explaining the above changes down below.

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