What Is Google Play Services, and Why Does It Use So Much Power?

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If you’ve ever looked at the battery settings on your Android device, you’ve probably noticed “Google Play Services” listed there. But what precisely is it, and why is it draining the battery so quickly?

How Do I Use Google Play Services?

Because it incorporates all of Google’s services in one package, Google Play Services is a little more complicated than typical apps. You can view exactly what Google Services provides on older versions of Android (7.x Nougat or below) by tapping it. On an Android 7.1.1 smartphone, this is what it looks like:

  • Google Account Manager: There isn’t much information on what this service performs, but it appears to handle Google account data syncing, including email and other related items.
  • Google Services Framework: The Google Services Framework is in charge of a variety of Google communications, including cloud messaging.
  • This service allows Android apps to back up their data to Google’s servers. Your app’s data can be restored if you conduct a factory reset or set up a new Android device.
  • Google Play Services is a layer of services that Android apps can make advantage of. This includes location services, which is the biggest drain on the battery. Without an operating system upgrade, the “Google Play Services” package can be updated on-the-fly.

In some ways, Google Play Services is a way for Google to add new features to Android without having to update the entire operating system, but it also means that one package may do a lot of things and deplete your battery just like the rest of your OS.

Look into what’s causing your battery to die.

To see which apps and system services are consuming the most battery power on Android, go to the Settings menu and choose Battery. The information here is normally self-explanatory, however things may look a little different depending on which version of Android your phone is running.

For example, you’ll usually discover “Screen” near the top of older Android versions like Marshmallow (Android 6.x) and Nougat (Android 7.x)—this is the amount of battery power used by your device’s display and back light. You may save battery life by lowering the display brightness or turning on your screen less frequently.

The battery menu in Oreo (Android 8.x) is, however, somewhat different. The top part here is for screen usage, with a separate section for app battery usage. It’s a lot more logical this way.

Individual apps appear in this list, allowing you to identify which ones are draining your energy. For obvious reasons, the apps you use the most frequently will likely display near the top. For more details, see our Android battery power saving guide.

How to Reduce the Battery Consumption of Google Play Services

Separate entries on the Power screen have been consolidated under the “Google Play Services” banner, making it more difficult to determine which of these services is consuming your battery.

But there’s really only one setting you can change to make Play Service consume less battery in the first place: Location. When apps ask Google Play Services for your location, your GPS hardware is activated and your precise position is calculated. The GPS radio consumes a lot of battery life, and all of your GPS usage will be attributed to Google Play Services rather than the app that requested your location.

Change the Mode to “Battery Saving” under Settings > Location (Settings > Security and Location on Android 8.x devices) to reduce battery drain related to location services. When apps request your position, this will prevent Google Play Services from turning on your device’s GPS hardware, which comes at a cost: accuracy. If you’re desperate for battery life, you can also turn off location tracking entirely from this menu. Return to this screen and enable high-accuracy mode if you need precise location monitoring in the future.

Google Play Services is used by a variety of apps to update your location. The Google Search app uses Google Play Services to determine your location so that it can show you the weather and other relevant information.

Something else could be going on if Google Services is still draining your battery after you’ve tweaked your location settings. Another factor to consider is synchronisation. Uncheck Auto-sync Data by going to Settings > Accounts and selecting the menu button. Automatically Sync Data is a toggle at the bottom of the screen in Android Oreo, and it’s found under Settings > User & Accounts. It’s worth mentioning that if you turn off this option, Android will stop automatically syncing data in the background. In your Gmail account, for example, you will not be notified of new emails. To update the data, you’ll need to open the Gmail app and execute a manual sync. However, if this stops the battery from draining, you have a syncing problem.

Google Services should not be the primary source of battery drain. If your battery is still being depleted, there’s a problem—possibly an Android bug.

By performing a factory reset on your Android device, you may be able to resolve the issue. To do so, go to Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset (on Oreo, go to Settings > System > Reset > Factory Data Reset). All of the data on your Android phone will be destroyed, but the majority of it should be saved online so you can quickly recover. This is the nuclear option, but there have been stories that it has helped folks whose devices have become stuck.

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