Google Play Services is becoming an increasingly important part of Android - which is exactly what Google wants. Is the latest decimal point upgrade enough to make it essential?
The biggest upgrade in 4.4 is to the Maps API. You can now embed Street View imagery into you apps. Yes, you can show users what they are seeing with their own eyes on their Android's screen! More seriously you could make use of it to create augmented reality apps that show the user a view with additional labels. It also opens up some interesting possibilities for games.
In addition the indoor map, yes a maps of indoor locations, API has been tweaked so that you can for example create your own floor picker and you can detect when a new building comes in to focus and show custom markup.
A new and slightly spooky feature that has some synergy with the previous two is the availability of Activity Recognition for two new activities - Running and Walking. Now you can not only recognize if the user is in a vehicle, on a bicycle or on foot but if on foot are they running or walking. Putting this together with Street View and indoor mapping opens up new possibilities. What exactly, is a good question.
There is a tiny tweak to the Games Service in that the UI has been improved and user can now select multiple game gift recipients.
Mobile ads now has the ability to let publishers display in-app promo ads which allow users to purchase the items directly. You can keep control of the process by targeting specific user types with particular ad types.
Finally there is the Google Wallet Fragment API. which makes it easy to place an instant buy button in an app.
As stated earlier, the ability to use Street View is the most important and it does open up a range of new applications. It is a smallish upgrade that will be rolled out over the next few days. The developer blog post that announced the upgrade teased with the final comment:
Coming up in June is Google I/O, no need to say more…
Are we to assume that a bigger upgrade is coming? Why not leave this one till Google I/O? Not long to wait.