What Does GMS Mean?

November 23, 2023
David Sunnyside

Google’s mobile software suite, GMS, is a bundle of apps and APIs installed at the system level, deep within the Android operating system. This enables the device to connect to the full range of Google services like Gmail, Maps, Drive and Assistant, among others. In turn, it helps Google monetize its services by collecting and sharing user data with marketers. This is how the telecommunications giant makes its money.

Even though GMS is not open source, OEMs are obligated to license it and include it in the Android devices they produce. To do so, they must submit the hardware to Google for GMS certification and go through a rigorous development cycle. This includes demonstrating the ability to deliver timely system updates via OTA and passing all of Google’s performance, usability, and compatibility tests.

As a result of the rigorous requirements, GMS-certified devices can deliver consistent experiences and are well suited for delivering a wide variety of use cases. From kiosks and single-use devices to mobile point of sale (POS) solutions, Google’s ML Kit, a component of GMS, offers many on-device machine learning APIs that help reduce development time and complexity for developers.

However, for some specific use cases, a GMS device may not be suitable. For example, a corporate-owned, single-used device that needs to be ruggedized or locked down to prevent unauthorized access should not be running an opaque Android build. These COSU devices should instead be run on a more secure version of the OS — such as AOSP — that is not managed by Google’s servers.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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