Handling registration ID changes in Google Cloud Messaging on Android

The question:

In the docs on Google Cloud Messaging, it states:

The Android application should store this ID for later use (for
instance, to check on onCreate() if it is already registered). Note
that Google may periodically refresh the registration ID, so you
should design your Android application with the understanding that the
com.google.android.c2dm.intent.REGISTRATION intent may be called
multiple times. Your Android application needs to be able to respond

I register my device using the following code:

GoogleCloudMessaging gcm = GoogleCloudMessaging.getInstance(context);
String regID = gcm.register(senderID);

The GoogleCloudMessaging class encapsulates the registration process. So how am I suppose to handle com.google.android.c2dm.intent.REGISTRATION since handling that is done internally by the GoogleCloudMessaging class?

The Solutions:

Below are the methods you can try. The first solution is probably the best. Try others if the first one doesn’t work. Senior developers aren’t just copying/pasting – they read the methods carefully & apply them wisely to each case.

Method 1

That’s an interesting question.

Google encourage you to switch to the new registration process :

An Android application running on a mobile device registers to receive messages by calling the GoogleCloudMessaging method register(senderID…). This method registers the application for GCM and returns the registration ID. This streamlined approach replaces the previous GCM registration process.

The note that says Google may periodically refresh the registration ID only appears on the page that still shows the old registration process, so it’s possible that this note is no longer relevant.

If you want to be safe, you can still use the old registration process. Or you can use the new process, but have in addition the code that handles the com.google.android.c2dm.intent.REGISTRATION intent, in order to make sure you are covered if Google do decide to refresh the registration ID.

That said, I never experienced such a refresh, and even when I did experience a change in the registration ID (usually as a result of sending a notification after un-installing the app and then re-installing it), the old registration ID still worked (resulting in a canonical registration ID sent in the response from Google), so no harm was done.

EDIT (06.06.2013) :

Google changed their Demo App to use the new interface. They refresh the registration ID by setting an expiration date on the value persisted locally by the app. When the app starts, they load their locally stored registration id. If it is “expired” (which in the demo means it was received from GCM over 7 days ago), they call gcm.register(senderID) again.

This doesn’t handle the hypothetical scenario in which a registration ID is refreshed by Google for an app that hasn’t been launched for a long time. In that case, the app won’t be aware of the change, and neither will the 3rd party server.

public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

    mDisplay = (TextView) findViewById(R.id.display);

    context = getApplicationContext();
    regid = getRegistrationId(context);

    if (regid.length() == 0) {
    gcm = GoogleCloudMessaging.getInstance(this);

 * Gets the current registration id for application on GCM service.
 * <p>
 * If result is empty, the registration has failed.
 * @return registration id, or empty string if the registration is not
 *         complete.
private String getRegistrationId(Context context) {
    final SharedPreferences prefs = getGCMPreferences(context);
    String registrationId = prefs.getString(PROPERTY_REG_ID, "");
    if (registrationId.length() == 0) {
        Log.v(TAG, "Registration not found.");
        return "";
    // check if app was updated; if so, it must clear registration id to
    // avoid a race condition if GCM sends a message
    int registeredVersion = prefs.getInt(PROPERTY_APP_VERSION, Integer.MIN_VALUE);
    int currentVersion = getAppVersion(context);
    if (registeredVersion != currentVersion || isRegistrationExpired()) {
        Log.v(TAG, "App version changed or registration expired.");
        return "";
    return registrationId;

 * Checks if the registration has expired.
 * <p>To avoid the scenario where the device sends the registration to the
 * server but the server loses it, the app developer may choose to re-register
 * @return true if the registration has expired.
private boolean isRegistrationExpired() {
    final SharedPreferences prefs = getGCMPreferences(context);
    // checks if the information is not stale
    long expirationTime =
            prefs.getLong(PROPERTY_ON_SERVER_EXPIRATION_TIME, -1);
    return System.currentTimeMillis() > expirationTime;

EDIT (08.14.2013) :

Google changed their Demo App again (two days ago). This time they removed the logic that considers the Registration ID to be expired after 7 days. Now they only refresh the Registration ID when a new version of the app it installed.

EDIT (04.24.2014) :

For the sake of completeness, here are the words of Costin Manolache (taken from here), a Google developer involved in the development of GCM, on the matter :

The ‘periodical’ refresh never happened, and the registration refresh
is not included in the new GCM library.

The only known cause for registration ID change is the old bug of apps
getting unregistered automatically if they receive a message while
getting upgraded. Until this bug is fixed apps still need to call
register() after upgrade, and so far the registration ID may change in
this case. Calling unregister() explicitly usually changes the
registration ID too.

The suggestion/workaround is to generate your own random identifier,
saved as a shared preference for example. On each app upgrade you can
upload the identifier and the potentially new registration ID. This
may also help tracking and debugging the upgrade and registration
changes on server side.

This explains the current implementation of the official GCM Demo application.
com.google.android.c2dm.intent.REGISTRATION should never be handled when using the GoogleCloudMessaging class to register.

Method 2

Reading the new InstanceID API, I found more info on when the token might change:

Your app can request tokens from the Instance ID service as needed
using the getToken() method, and like InstanceID, your app can also
store tokens on your own server. All tokens issued to your app belong
to the app’s InstanceID.

Tokens are unique and secure, but your app or the Instance ID service
may need to refresh tokens in the event of a security issue or when a
user uninstalls and reinstalls your app during device restoration
Your app must implement a listener to respond to token refresh
requests from the Instance ID service.

More details:

The Instance ID service initiates callbacks periodically (for example,
every 6 months), requesting that your app refreshes its tokens. It may
also initiate callbacks when:

  • There are security issues; for example, SSL or platform issues.
  • Device information is no longer valid; for example, backup and restore.
  • The Instance ID service is otherwise affected.




Method 3

After scrubbing through tonnes of misleading answers across the net, including SO, the only place I found a complete answer was as remarked by Eran’s answer and here:

While automatic registration refresh might or might never have happened, google describes a simiple algorithm to handle the canocical_ids by parsing successful response:

If the value of failure and canonical_ids is 0, it's not necessary to parse the remainder of the response. Otherwise, we recommend that you iterate through the results field and do the following for each object in that list:

If message_id is set, check for registration_id:
If registration_id is set, replace the original ID with the new value (canonical ID) in your server database. Note that the original ID is not part of the result, so you need to obtain it from the list of code>registration_ids passed in the request (using the same index).
Otherwise, get the value of error:
If it is Unavailable, you could retry to send it in another request.
If it is NotRegistered, you should remove the registration ID from your server database because the application was uninstalled from the device or it does not have a broadcast receiver configured to receive com.google.android.c2dm.intent.RECEIVE intents.
Otherwise, there is something wrong in the registration ID passed in the request; it is probably a non-recoverable error that will also require removing the registration from the server database. See Interpreting an error response for all possible error values.

From aforementioned link.

All methods was sourced from stackoverflow.com or stackexchange.com, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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