Google Play Services 6.5 updates Maps, Fit, Wallet, and Drive

App developers will get a host of new tools in the latest version of Google Play Services.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
The Google Maps toolbar. Image: Google
The Google Maps toolbar. Image: Google

Google has released its fifth major update to Google Play Services (GPS), targeting new features in Maps, Drive, Google Wallet, and its new Google Fit platform.

Google continues to expand the number of APIs available in GPS, which offers developers the tools to integrate functions from Drive, Maps, and so on, while keeping core Google apps consistent across different versions of Android.

GPS 6.5 is rolling out across the globe this week to nearly all Android devices, bringing with it a number of improvements to Maps, such as making it easier to get directions from within third-party apps. Certain apps will soon feature a map toolbar that gives directions and turn-by-turn navigation to a marker.

Google has also added a new 'lite mode' map option that lets developers display smaller maps, such as thumbnail images, at a specified location and zoom level. While it's not a fully featured map, it will let developers add markers and shapes to the thumbnail, and can serve as a gateway to Google Maps if the situation demands it.

With GPS 6.5 developers will also have more options to launch Google Map tasks from their app, including displaying the map, searching, starting turn-by-turn navigation, and opening Street View.

They'll also gain the ability to add public and private custom file properties to a Drive file, which according to Google, can be used to build more efficient search queries and allow apps to save information without being affected by editing in other apps.

GPS 6.5 aims to make apps a little friendlier to the device's battery by adding more granular controls for when files are to be uploaded to Drive based on network type and charging status.

Google's recently launched Google Fit SDK, a health and fitness app, gets a boost in GPS 6.5 too. Developers will now have an easier time adding 'activity segments' — predefined periods for different activities such as running, walking, or cycling — when inserting 'sessions'. As Google previously outlined, sessions add time interval metadata to fitness data in the fitness store and offer developers a way of querying data based on that.

The update also brings a new 'Donate with Google' button to Google Wallet, adding to its existing 'Buy with Google' button.

Given Google's ever-expanding set of APIs made available through GPS, the search giant is offering a way for developers to keep their apps from becoming bloated as as result. With GPS 6.5, developers can select a minimal common library and the exact APIs their app needs.

Google says the SDK for GPS 6.5 will be available in the next few days.

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