Google today announced that Google Play services 10.0.0 and Firebase 10.0.0 client libraries for Android will be the last versions to support Android API level 9 through API level 13. The next version of these libraries (10.2.0), slated for release “in early 2017,” will increase the minimum supported API level to 14, meaning Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will be required. As a result, support for Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Android 3.0/3.1/3.2 Honeycomb will be dropped next year.
Introduced in September 2012, Google Play services is Google’s background service and API package for Android. It’s the company’s way of delivering updates and improvements to Android users without actually requiring an upgrade of the whole operating system.
According to the latest adoption figures, Gingerbread (first released in December 2010) is on 1.3 percent of devices with Google Play services. Honeycomb (first released February 2011) is on less than 0.1 percent of these devices. In other words, it’s really no surprise Google has decided it’s time to move on.
Indeed, here is the Android team’s explanation:
The Gingerbread platform is almost six years old. Many Android developers have already discontinued support for Gingerbread in their apps. This helps them build better apps that make use of the newer capabilities of the Android platform. For us, the situation is the same. By making this change, we will be able to provide a more robust collection of tools for Android developers with greater speed.
To be clear, developers can continue to use version 10.0.0 of Google Play services and Firebase with Gingerbread and Honeycomb devices. Once you upgrade to version 10.2.0 or above, however, you will have to either target API level 14 as the minimum supported version or build multiple APKs to support devices with an API level less than 14. Given that Gingerbread and Honeycomb will continue to be slowly but surely phased out, the former is your best option.