The mystery of Google Play Services: Android's black box

Mishaal Rahman
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The mystery of Google Play Services: Android's black box

On this episode of Android Bytes, we take the wraps off Google Play Services, the wonder app that powers many features and APIs you probably thought were native to Android.

What does Google Play Services do and how does it do it? Why is it so important and what happens when it's missing from your device? We spoke with German developer Marvin Wißfeld to find out. Marvin is the creator of microG, a "free-as-in-freedom re-implementation of Google's proprietary Android user space apps and libraries" for devices running AOSP.

  • 02:59 - What is Google Play Services (GMSCore) and how is it delivered to Android devices?
  • 04:14 - What are some of the features powered by Google Play Services?
  • 07:27 - What are the most commonly used APIs provided by Google Play Services?
  • 08:23 - How do Play Services' location APIs (Network Location Provider [NLP] and Fused Location Provider [FLP]) work? Why do many apps use Google's location APIs?
  • 11:20 - What advantages do apps have in using Google's Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) over alternative push notification APIs?
  • 13:28 - How are push notifications handled in the Chinese market where Google services are banned?
  • 18:07 - How do apps tend to behave on devices without Google Play Services?
  • 23:02 - What is microG and how does it help work around some of the issues with running apps on AOSP?
  • 26:40 - How do users install microG and why is signature spoofing needed?
  • 31:00 - How does the modular nature of Google Play Services optimize its app size?
  • 34:57 - Have any Google APIs eventually made their way to AOSP?
  • 36:43 - Are there any Google APIs that work on AOSP?

About the Podcast

Android Bytes (powered by Esper)

A weekly show that dives deep into the Android OS

Android Bytes (powered by Esper) is the podcast that dives deep into the engineering and business decisions behind the world’s most popular OS. 

Android powers over 3 billion devices worldwide and is the platform of choice for over a thousand companies. You’ll find Android on smartphones, tablets, watches, TV, cars, kiosks, and so much more. How does Google architect Android to run on so many form factors, and how do companies fork AOSP to make it run on even more devices? These are the kinds of questions the Android Bytes podcast considers each week.

Join cohosts Mishaal Rahman and David Ruddock, two journalists with extensive knowledge covering the Android OS platform and ecosystem, as they speak to system architects, kernel engineers, app developers, and other distinguished experts in the Android space.

Click here to learn more about the podcast. Get in touch with us at if you’re looking to use Android for your product — we have the experience you need.

Our music is “19” by HOME and is licensed under CC BY 3.0.


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Mishaal Rahman
Mishaal Rahman

Mishaal Rahman is a Technical Editor at Esper. He has been an Android user for over a decade and has been at the forefront of Android news coverage for half a decade. His in-depth breakdowns of new Android versions have been referenced across the Internet.