Even though Android is open source, virtually every Android device sold outside of China contains a chunk of closed code from Google in the form of Google Play Services and the GApps. These two deeply related software packages turn a rather stale mobile operating system into the full-on Google Android most of us know. There aren’t a whole lot of Android users (again, outside of China) who aren’t using these.
Since these packages aren’t open source, custom Android ROMs ship without them; you have to sideload them manually after installing your ROM image. Luckily for us, Google has always allowed this, but it’s always been a bit tenuous. It’s about to get a whole lot more tenuous, since Google appears to be blocking GApps from running on uncertified Android devices – but thankfully, they’re allowing custom ROM users to register their Android device to get an exception.
Earlier this week, we received an anonymous tip from a person claiming to be within the industry. This person, who said they worked for an OEM/ODM, notified us that Google has started entirely locking out newly built firmware from accessing Gapps. This change apparently went into effect March 16th and affects any software builds made after this date (Google Play Services checks ro.build.fingerprint for the build date apparently).
You can register your device to get an exception, and you can register up to 100 devices per user – which should be enough for virtually everyone, I assume.