What Is Google Play Services, and Why Is It Draining My Battery?

If you’ve ever taken a look into your Android device’s battery settings screen, you’ve probably seen “Google Play Services” listed here. But what exactly is it, and why is it using so much battery?

What Is Google Play Services?

Google Play Services is a bit more confusing than most apps, as it includes all of Google’s services under one package. On older versions of Android (7.x Nougat or below) you can see exactly what Google Services includes by tapping it. Here’s what it shows on an Android 7.1.1 device:
Google Account Manager: Little information is available on exactly what this service does, but it seems to handle syncing for Google account data, including email and other related things.
Google Services Framework: Google Services Framework handles a variety of other communications with Google, including cloud messaging.
Google Backup Transport: This service allows Android apps to back up their data onto Google’s servers. When you perform a factory reset on an Android device or set up a new one, your app’s data can be restored.
Google Play Services: Google Play Services is a layer of services Android apps can use. This includes location services, which is the most significant battery drain here. The “Google Play Services” package can actually be updated on-the-fly without an operating system update.

In a way, Google Play Services is how Google delivers new features to Android without having to update the entire operating system—but that means that one package can do a whole lot of stuff, and can cause battery drain, just like the rest of your OS does.

Check What’s Draining Your Battery

Android shows which apps and system services are using the most battery power—just open the Settings menu and tap Battery to view this information. The information here is usually self-explanatory, but depending on what version of Android your phone is running, things might look a little bit different.

For example, on older version of Android like Marshmallow (Android 6.x) and Nougat (Android 7.x), you’ll probably find “Screen” near the top—this is the amount of battery power used by your device’s display and its backlight. You can reduce the screen’s battery usage by turning down your display brightness or turning on your screen less often.

On Oreo (Android 8.x), however, the battery menu is very different. Screen usage shows up at the top here, with app battery usage getting its own section. It really makes more sense this way.

Individual apps appear in this list, so you can see exactly which apps are using battery power. For obvious reasons, apps you actively use more often will probably appear near the top. Read our guide to saving battery power on Android for more information.

How to Make Google Play Services Use Less Battery

Previously separate entries have been merged under the “Google Play Services” umbrella on the Battery screen, so it’s now more difficult to know exactly which of these services is draining your battery.

But there’s really only one setting you may be able to tweak when it comes to making Play Service use less battery anyway: Location. When apps want your location, they ask Google Play Services and it wakes up your GPS hardware, calculating your precise location. The GPS radio uses quite a bit of battery power, and all that GPS usage will be pinned on Google Play Services—not the app that requested your GPS location.

To reduce battery usage associated with location services, navigate to Settings > Location (Settings > Security and Location on Android 8.x devices) and changing the Mode to “Battery Saving.” This will prevent Google Play Services from turning on your device’s GPS hardware when apps request your location, which of course comes at at cost: accuracy. You can also entirely disable location tracking features from here if you’re desperate to save battery power. If you need precise location tracking in the future, go back to this screen and enable high-accuracy mode.

Many different apps use Google Play Services to update your location. The Google Search app frequently queries Google Play Services to get your location so it can display the weather and other location-specific information.

If Google Services is still draining your battery after you tweak your location settings, something else might be going on. One other culprit could be syncing. Try heading to Settings > Accounts, tapping the menu button, and unchecking Auto-sync Data. In Android Oreo, this setting is in Settings > User & Accounts, and Automatically Sync Data is a toggle at the bottom of the screen. It’s worth noting that Android will stop automatically syncing data in the background with this option off. For example, you won’t be notified of new emails in your Gmail account. You’ll have to open the Gmail app and perform a manual sync to update the data. If this stops the battery drain, though, it means you have an issue with syncing.

Google Services shouldn’t be the main drain on your battery. If it’s still draining your battery, there’s a problem—possibly a bug with Android.

You may be able to fix the problem by performing a factory reset of your Android device. Visit Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset to do this (Settings > System > Reset > Factory Data Reset on Oreo). All the data on your Android phone will be erased, but most of that data should be stored online so you can easily get back up and running again. This is the nuclear option, but we’ve seen reports that it helped people when their devices were stuck in a bad state.
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