Google Releases Enriched New Version of Play Services

The latest Play Services platform allows developers to embed Google Street View imagery into activities, as well as activity recognition capabilities to make apps more responsive to users.

Google has unveiled its latest Google Play services application, giving app developers new features that they can include in their products, including in-app Street View imagery capabilities and the ability for apps to recognize the activities of users.

Google Play services 4.4 was announced by the Android team in a May 7 post on the Android Developers Blog. The new version is automatically rolling out to users worldwide.

Among the key highlights of version 4.4 is the first-time introduction of Street View to the Google Maps Android API, according to the post. "You can now embed Street View imagery into an activity enabling your users to explore the world through panoramic 360-degree views. Programmatically control the zoom and orientation (tilt and bearing) of the Street View camera, and animate the camera movements over a given duration."

Also added are new capabilities for the Indoor Maps feature of the API. "You can turn the default floor picker off—useful if you want to build your own," the post continued. "You can also detect when a new building comes into focus, and find the currently-active building and floor. Great if you want to show custom markup for the active level, for example."

The Location API also gains some new features to make apps more responsive to their users. "For those of you that have used this API, you may have seen the ability already there to detect if the device is in a vehicle, on a bicycle, on foot, still, or tilting," the post states.

The latest release adds two new activity detectors—Running and Walking, which can help determine when users are in the midst of those activities. "And for you that have not worked with this capability earlier, we hardly need to tell the cool things you can do with it," the post continues. "Just imagine combining this capability with features in Maps, Games Services, and other parts of Location."

Mobile Ads get updates with new APIs for publishers to display in-app promo ads so that users can purchase advertised items directly through the apps, according to the post. "We're offering app developers control of targeting specific user segments with ads, for example offering high-value users an ad for product A, or new users with an ad for product B, etc. With these extensions, users can conveniently purchase in-app items that interest them, advertisers can reach consumers, and your app connects the dots; a win-win-win in other words."

Also updated in Google Play services 4.4 is the Instant Buy API, which has been simplified. "We've now reduced the work involved to place a Buy With Google button in an app," the post continues. "The WalletFragment API introduced in this release makes it extremely easy to integrate Google Wallet Instant Buy with an existing app. Just configure these fragments and add them to your app."

Version 4.1 of Google Play services was released in January 2014, according to an earlier eWEEK report. That version included a wide swath of new features as well, including turn-based multiplayer support and improved battery life capabilities. It also included a preliminary API for integrating Google Drive into apps. Under Version 4.1, the Google Mobile Ads SDK fully supported DoubleClick for Publishers, DoubleClick Ad Exchange and Search Ads for Mobile Apps, which means that developers can use a new publisher-provided location API to provide Google with a user's location for ad serving placement on mobile devices. Version 4.1 also provided improved integration with Google+, which makes it easier for users to share with their friends from their apps.

Google Play Games, which is Google's gaming platform for Android and iOS devices and for the Web, was introduced by the company in early 2013.