Google Play Services is dropping support for Android ICS (API 14-15)
There comes a point when we have to move on in life. This can include a particular relationship, a job, or something trivial like an older version of Android, which is the case with Google Play Services. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released over 7 years ago and Google believes it’s time to retire this old sweet treat. This week the company announced that Google Play Services is discontinuing support for API 14 and API 15. This includes Android versions 4.0 to 4.0.4.
A lot of people talk about Android fragmentation when referring to major versions of Android. In the latest example, Android Pie was released 4 months ago but some of the biggest smartphone OEMs on the market are just now getting around to doing public beta tests for the update. These major version updates do bring some of the most talked about new features (as they add new APIs to AOSP) but there are a ton of new features that get added to smartphones thanks to Google Play Services.
With this news, anyone running Ice Cream Sandwich will no longer get those updates to Google Play Services. Specifically, devices running Android 4.0 to 4.0.4 will no longer update the Play Services APK beyond version 14.7.99 from the Google Play Store. To be honest, less than 1% of active Android devices are running a version of Android that will no longer receive Google Play Services updates. Ice Cream Sandwich was only running on 0.3% of active Android devices as of late October. Granted, that is still less than 6 million active devices, but when there are over 2 billion worldwide that is such a tiny amount.
Thanks to the new SDK version changes earlier this year, each library can be independently released and may update its own minSdkVersion. Apps that are currently supporting API levels 14 or 15 will encounter build errors when updating to newer SDK versions. Naturally, to fix these build errors, Google’s recommended course of action is to target API level 16 as the minimum supported API level. However, there are still 6 million active Android devices and some developers may want to continue supporting them.
If you are one of those developers then you are able to do this with some configuration and code management. You are able to build multiple APKs that support different minimum API levels, with different versions of Google Play services. To do this, developers will want to use the build variants feature in Gradle so you can define build flavors for legacy and newer versions of your app