Google will force file manager developers to submit form to gain wide access to file storage in Android 11

The Android 10 beta 2 released earlier this year revealed that Google plans to limit how apps can access your phone’s internal storage. To this end, Google has introduced something called Scoped Storage. However, due to backlash from several developers, the company had to reconsider its implementation. The company has allowed apps that don’t yet target Android 10 to work as before and has given developers time until November 1, 2020 to update their apps to target Android 10.

Apps that already target Android 10 by default can only see files in their app-specific directory. To access files created by other apps, such as photos, images, videos, and audio, apps should still request the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, but getting this permission no longer grants access to the entire partition / data / media. Instead, they only see files in the well-defined locations provided by the MediaStore API. While this implementation works for applications that require access to media files, it does not work for file management applications.

File managers need wide access to external storage to function and if they are targeting Android 10, the only way to get wide access to files is to use the Storage Access Framework (SAF) API. Even though SAF has been around since Android 5.0 Lollipop, developers tend not to use it because it has a difficult and poorly documented API, poor user experience, poor performance, and poor reliability. Now Google is aiming to fix these issues with Android 11.

According to a recent talk titled “Preparing for Limited Storage” presented by Googlers Roxanna Aliabadi, Zimuzo Ezeozue and Yacine Rezgui, Google plans to grant “special access to applications for certain use cases.” As part of the presentation, they mention that this “special application access” is only granted to applications that demonstrate a “clear need” for full access to shared storage, “submit a declaration form” to Google and do not access “application directories”.

This means that file managers will have to ask Google for permission to access external storage, much like apps requesting SMS / Call Log permissions will have to ask Google. So there might be some arbitrary app issues, much like we’ve seen in the past with Google Play decisions. Finally, another potential problem is that file managers will no longer have access to external application directories. Therefore, things like mods for games will no longer work.

Source: Youtube

Going through: Reddit

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Donald E. Hollingsworth

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