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Google now lets Android apps tap into Street View

An update to the Google Play Services utility means apps can use more advanced navigation and can tell when an Android device user is running or walking.

Google Play Services lets Android apps use a range of Google features.
Google Play Services lets Android apps use a range of Google features. Google

Street View, Google's vast collection of eye-level images showing more and more of the real world, is now available for Android software to use.

That ability comes with the new Google Play Services 4.4, an update to the company's multipurpose software resource that lets Android app developers tap into a range of Google features. With the change, announced Wednesday night, a restaurant-review app could show street-level views of the restaurants.

The Google Play Services software is an important part of Google's effort to let programmers create fuller-featured apps -- and to draw them and their users more deeply into the Google ecosystem. For example, those programmers can link into documents stored at Google Drive, present Google Maps, see Google-supplied advertising, and use Google Wallet for purchasing. The Android operating system's importance to Google lies largely in its ability to drive users to these services and others such as Gmail and YouTube.

Another new feature in Google Play Services 4.4 is the ability to tell an app whether an Android device user is walking or running, contextual information that can be useful for apps that enter different modes in different circumstances. That extends Google Play Services' previous ability to detect whether a user was driving or bicycling.

Google Play Services also helps shield programmers from some of the difficulties of Android operating system version fragmentation, which can complicate matters when developers have to decide whether to use older or newer programming interfaces. Google Play Services provides the same interface for versions as old as Android 2.3 Gingerbread, though it doesn't replace the full set of resources the operating system offers.