Google’s new location APIs: the biggest change to location since Android launched

Google’s new location APIs: the biggest change to location since Android launched
Google's I/O 2013 conference is more focused on developers than product launches or new Android versions, but that does not mean that there is no innovation. It is happening under the hood and one of its biggest manifestations came in the form of new location APIs for developers. That will open the way for a ton of new functionality and apps, but it is also done in a way so that your phone can last long enough.

Google has focused its innovation in location services in three areas: power, accuracy and coverage. That means that with the new APIs apps using your location will draw less power from the system, be more accurate and available in places they weren’t before. They will also be able to better track location, user activity, and employ geofences.

To show just how important location is (not just to Google ads), developers from Google pointed out that out of 28 Google Now cards 21 are location-dependent. With that comes a problem, though. Location checks can drain your battery way too fast and there should be an easy solution for those who don't always require the most precise location.

There are three new APIs that improve on that, and they support Android devices as old as running 2.2 Froyo.

Fused Location Provider

Fused comes with the idea of simplifying the way you refer to location and also fusing all location sensors like cellular, Wi-Fi and GPS. Fused makes all that signal easy and simple to access so you don’t have to invoke every single way to determine location but instead just use Fused.

Simple accuracy priorities

As we’ve mentioned more accurate location determination means a higher battery draw. Google introduces three levels of accuracy developers will be able to choose from:

High Accuracy: location checks every 5 seconds consuming 7.25% battery capacity per hour. The provided location data is true in a 20 meter range and employs GPS outside and Wi-Fi inside.

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Balanced Power: location checks every 20 seconds drawing 0.6% battery per hour. Accuracy is in a 40 meter range. This is the way to bring energy efficient location data into a lot of applications without draining your battery.

No Power: no interval for location checks, does not consume power, gives a one mile accuracy.


The new API will make it possible to add up to 100 geofences for each app. Geofences are areas around a certain location. Whenever the user crosses the border of such an area, it could trigger an action. Enter a store to get coupon offers automatically pop up on your device, and so on - the practical uses are endless.

We also have to mention that a similar function already exists in Android and it is called addProximityAlert(), but it comes with one huge downside - it consumes 8% of your battery per day. This new geofencing implementation will cut power consumption to merely 2.4%.

Activity tracking

Google is also giving developers easy tools to check what kind of activity a user is doing - walking, cycling, driving a car. It uses existing device sensors and has been done with machine learning.

The expectations for the new location APIs are sky-high. If Google has managed to pull these location APIs right, it will get developers attention and love. Hopefully, it does.

source: Google Developers via The Next Web

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