Tag Archives: permissions

Turning it up to 11: Android 11 for developers

Posted by Stephanie Cuthbertson, Director, Product Management

Android 11 logo

Android 11 is here! Today we’re pushing the source to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and officially releasing the newest version of Android. We built Android 11 with a focus on three themes: a People-centric approach to communication, Controls to let users quickly get to and control all of their smart devices, and Privacy to give users more ways to control how data on devices is shared. Read more in our Keyword post.

For developers, Android 11 has a ton of new capabilities. You’ll want to check out conversation notifications, device and media controls, one-time permissions, enhanced 5G support, IME transitions, and so much more. To help you work and develop faster, we also added new tools like compatibility toggles, ADB incremental installs, app exit reasons API, data access auditing API, Kotlin nullability annotations, and many others. We worked to make Android 11 a great release for you, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll build!

Watch for official Android 11 coming to a device near you, starting today with Pixel 2, 3, 3a, 4, and 4a devices. To get started, visit the Android 11 developer site.

People, Controls, Privacy

People

Android 11 is people-centric and expressive, reimagining the way we have conversations on our phones, and building an OS that can recognize and prioritize the most important people in our lives. For developers, Android 11 helps you build deeper conversational and personal interactions into your apps.

  • Conversation notifications appear in a dedicated section at the top of the shade, with a people-forward design and conversation specific actions, such as opening the conversation as a bubble, creating a conversation shortcut on the home screen, or setting a reminder.
  • Bubbles - Bubbles help users keep conversations in view and accessible while multitasking on their devices. Messaging and chat apps should use the Bubbles API on notifications to enable this in Android 11.
  • Consolidated keyboard suggestions let Autofill apps and Input Method Editors (IMEs) securely offer users context-specific entities and strings directly in an IME’s suggestion strip, where they are most convenient for users.
mobile display of conversation UI

Bubbles and people-centric conversations.

Controls

Android 11 lets users quickly get to and control all of their smart devices in one space. Developers can use new APIs to help users surface smart devices and control media:

  • Device Controls make it faster and easier than ever for users to access and control their connected devices. Now, by simply long pressing the power button, they’re able to bring up device controls instantly, and in one place. Apps can use a new API to appear in the controls. More here.
  • Media Controls make it quick and convenient for users to switch the output device for their audio or video content, whether it be headphones, speakers or even their TV. More here.
Device controls on mobile device Media controls on mobile device

Device controls and media controls.

Privacy

In Android 11, we’re giving users even more control and transparency over sensitive permissions and working to keep devices more secure through faster updates.

One-time permission - Now users can give an app access to the device microphone, camera, or location, just for one time. The app can request permissions again the next time the app is used. More here.

Permission notification

One-time permission dialog in Android 11.

Background location - Background location now requires additional steps from the user beyond granting a runtime permission. If your app needs background location, the system will ensure that you first ask for foreground location. You can then broaden your access to background location through a separate permission request, and the system will take the user to Settings to complete the permission grant.

Also note that in February we announced that Google Play developers will need to get approval to access background location in their app to prevent misuse. We're giving developers more time to make changes and won't be enforcing the policy for existing apps until 2021.

Permissions auto-reset - if users haven’t used an app for an extended period of time, Android 11 will “auto-reset” all of the runtime permissions associated with the app and notify the user. The app can request the permissions again the next time the app is used. More here.

Scoped storage - We’ve continued our work to better protect app and user data on external storage, and made further improvements to help developers more easily migrate. More here.

Google Play system updates - Launched last year, Google Play system updates help us expedite updates of core OS components to devices in the Android ecosystem. In Android 11, we more than doubled the number of updatable modules, including 12 new modules that will help improve privacy, security, and consistency for users and developers.

BiometricPrompt API - Developers can now use the BiometricPrompt API to specify the biometric authenticator strength required by their app to unlock or access sensitive parts of the app. For backward compatibility, we’ve just added these capabilities to the Jetpack Biometric library. We’ll share further updates as the work progresses.

Identity Credential API - This will unlock new use cases such as mobile drivers licences, National ID, and Digital ID. We’re working with various government agencies and industry partners to make sure that Android 11 is ready for digital-first identity experiences.

You can read about all of the Android 11 privacy features here.

Helpful innovation

Enhanced 5G support - Android 11 includes updated developer support to help you take advantage of the faster speeds and lower latency of 5G networks. You can learn when the user is connected to a 5G network, check whether the connection is metered, and get an estimate of the connection bandwidth. To help you build experiences now for 5G, we’ve also added 5G support in the Android Emulator. To get started with 5G on Android, visit the 5G developer page.

image of Google Maps on mobile

Moving beyond the home, 5G can for example let you enhance your “on-the-go” experience by providing seamless interactions with the world around you from friends and family to businesses.

New screen types - Device makers are continuing to innovate by bringing exciting new device screens to market, such as hole-punch and waterfall screens. Android 11 adds support for these in the platform, with APIs to let you optimize your apps. You can manage both hole-punch and waterfall screens using the existing display cutout APIs. You can set a new window layout attribute to use the entire waterfall screen, and a new waterfall insets API helps you manage interaction near the edges.

Call screening support - Android 11 helps call-screening apps do more to manage robocalls. Apps can verify an incoming call’s STIR/SHAKEN status (standards that protect against caller ID spoofing) as part of the call details, and they can report a call rejection reason. Apps can also customize a system-provided post call screen to let users perform actions such as marking a call as spam or adding to contacts.

Polish and quality

OS resiliency - In Android 11 we’ve made the OS more dynamic and resilient as a whole by fine-tuning memory reclaiming processes, such as forcing user-imperceptible restarts of processes based on RSS HWM thresholds. Also, to improve performance and memory, Android 11 adds Binder caching, which optimizes highly used IPC calls to system services by caching data for those that retrieve relatively static data. Binder caching also improves battery life by reducing CPU time.

Synchronized IME transitions - New APIs let you synchronize your app’s content with the IME (input method editor, or on-screen keyboard) and system bars as they animate on and offscreen, making it much easier to create natural, intuitive and jank-free IME transitions. For frame-perfect transitions, a new WindowInsetsAnimation.Callback API notifies apps of per-frame changes to insets while the system bars or the IME animate. Additionally, you can use a new WindowInsetsAnimationController API to control system UI types like system bars, IME, immersive mode, and others. More here.

Synchronized IME transition through insets animation listener. App-driven IME experience through WindowInsetsAnimationController.

Synchronized IME transition through insets animation listener.

App-driven IME experience through WindowInsetsAnimationController.

HEIF animated drawables - The ImageDecoder API now lets you decode and render image sequence animations stored in HEIF files, so you can make use of high-quality assets while minimizing impact on network data and APK size. HEIF image sequences can offer drastic file-size reductions for image sequences when compared to animated GIFs.

Native image decoder - New NDK APIs let apps decode and encode images (such as JPEG, PNG, WebP) from native code for graphics or post processing, while retaining a smaller APK size since you don’t need to bundle an external library. The native decoder also takes advantage of Android’s process for ongoing platform security updates. See the NDK sample code for examples of how to use the APIs.

Low-latency video decoding in MediaCodec - Low latency video is critical for real-time video streaming apps and services like Stadia. Video codecs that support low latency playback return the first frame of the stream as quickly as possible after decoding starts. Apps can use new APIs to check and configure low-latency playback for a specific codec.

Variable refresh rate - Apps and games can use a new API to set a preferred frame rate for their windows. Most Android devices refresh the display at 60Hz refresh rate, but some support multiple refresh rates, such as 90Hz as well as 60Hz, with runtime switching. On these devices, the system uses the app’s preferred frame rate to choose the best refresh rate for the app. The API is available in both the SDK and NDK. See the details here.

Dynamic resource loader - Android 11 includes a new public API to let apps load resources and assets dynamically at runtime. With the Resource Loader framework you can include a base set of resources in your app or game and then load additional resources, or modify the loaded resources, as needed at runtime.

Neural Networks API (NNAPI) 1.3 - We continue to add ops and controls to support machine learning on Android devices. To optimize common use-cases, NNAPI 1.3 adds APIs for priority and timeout, memory domains, and asynchronous command queue. New ops for advanced models include signed integer asymmetric quantization, branching and loops, and a hard-swish op that helps accelerate next-generation on-device vision models such as MobileNetV3.

Developer friendliness

App compatibility tools - We worked to minimize compatibility impacts on your apps by making most Android 11 behavior changes opt-in, so they won’t take effect until you change the apps’ targetSdkVersion to 30. If you are distributing through Google Play, you’ll have more than a year to opt-in to these changes, but we recommend getting started testing early. To help you test, Android 11 lets you enable or disable many of the opt-in changes individually. More here.

App exit reasons - When your app exits, it’s important to understand why the app exited and what the state was at the time -- across the many device types, memory configurations, and user scenarios that your app runs in. Android 11 makes this easier with an exit reasons API that you can use to request details of the app’s recent exits.

Data access auditing - data access auditing lets you instrument your app to better understand how it accesses user data and from which user flows. For example, it can help you identify any inadvertent access to private data in your own code or within any SDKs you might be using. More here.

ADB Incremental - Installing very large APKs with ADB (Android Debug Bridge) during development can be slow and impact your productivity, especially those developers working on Android Games. With ADB Incremental in Android 11, installing large APKs (2GB+) from your development computer to an Android 11 device is up to 10x faster. More here.

Kotlin nullability annotations - Android 11 adds nullability annotations to more methods in the public API. And, it upgrades a number of existing annotations from warnings to errors. These help you catch nullability issues at build time, rather than at runtime. More here.

Get your apps ready for Android 11

With Android 11 on its way to users, now is the time to finish your compatibility testing and publish your updates.

Flow chart steps for getting your apps ready for Android 11.

Here are some of the top behavior changes to watch for (these apply regardless of your app’s targetSdkVersion):

  • One-time permission - Users can now grant single-use permission to access location, device microphone and camera. More here.
  • External storage access - Apps can no longer access other apps’ files in external storage. More here.
  • Scudo hardened allocator - Scudo is now the heap memory allocator for native code in apps. More here.
  • File descriptor sanitizer - Fdsan is now enabled by default to detect file descriptor handling issues for native code in apps. More here.

Android 11 also includes opt-in behavior changes - these affect your app once it’s targeting the new platform. We recommend assessing these changes as soon as you’ve published the compatible version of your app. For more information on compatibility testing and tools, check out the resources we shared for Android 11 Compatibility week and visit the Android 11 developer site for technical details.

Enhance your app with new features and APIs

Next, when you're ready, dive into Android 11 and learn about the new features and APIs that you can use. Here are some of the top features to get started with.

We recommend these for all apps:

  • Dark theme (from Android 10) - Make sure to provide a consistent experience for users who enable system-wide dark theme by adding a Dark theme or enabling Force Dark.
  • Gesture navigation (from Android 10) - Support gesture navigation by going edge-to-edge and ensure that custom gestures work well with gestures. More here.
  • Sharing shortcuts (from Android 10) - Apps that want to receive shared data should use the sharing shortcuts APIs to create share targets. Apps that want to send shared data should make sure to use the system share sheet.
  • Synchronized IME transitions - Provide seamless transitions to your users using the new WindowInsets and related APIs. More here.
  • New screen types - for devices with hole-punch or waterfall screens, make sure to test and adjust your content for these screens as needed. More here.

We recommend these if relevant for your app:

  • Conversations - Messaging and communication apps can participate in the conversation experience by providing long-lived sharing shortcuts and surfacing conversations in notifications. More here.
  • Bubbles - Bubbles are a way to keep conversations in view and accessible while multitasking. Use the Bubbles API on notifications to enable this.
  • 5G - If your app or content can benefit from the faster speeds and lower latency of 5G, explore our developer resources to see what you can build.
  • Device controls - If your app supports external smart devices, make sure those devices are accessible from the new Android 11 device controls area. More here.
  • Media controls - For media apps, we recommend supporting the Android 11 media controls so users can manage playback and resumption from the Quick Settings shade. More here.

Read more about all of the Android 11 features at developer.android.com/11.

Coming to a device near you!

Android 11 will begin rolling out today on select Pixel, OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO and realme phones, with more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. If you have a Pixel 2, 3, 3a, 4, or 4a phone, including those enrolled in this year’s Beta program, watch for the over-the-air update arriving soon!

Android 11 factory system images for Pixel devices are also available through the Android Flash Tool, or you can download them here. As always, you can get the latest Android Emulator system images via the SDK Manager in Android Studio. For broader testing on other Treble-compliant devices, Generic System Images (GSI) are available here.

If you're looking for the Android 11 source code, you'll find it here in the Android Open Source Project repository under the Android 11 branches.

What’s next?

We’ll soon be closing the preview issue tracker and retiring open bugs logged against Developer Preview or Beta builds, but please keep the feedback coming! If you still see an issue that you filed in the preview tracker, just file a new issue against Android 11 in the AOSP issue tracker.

Thanks again to the many developers and early adopters who participated in the preview program this year! You gave us great feedback to help shape the release, and you filed thousands of issues that have made Android 11 a better platform for everyone.

We're looking forward to seeing your apps on Android 11!

Improving inter-activity communication with Jetpack ActivityResult

Posted by Yacine Rezgui, Developer Advocate

Whether you're requesting a permission, selecting a file from the system file manager, or expecting data from a 3rd party app, passing data between activities is a core element in inter-process communication on Android. We’ve recently released the new ActivityResult APIs to help handle these activity results.

Previously, to get results from started activities, apps needed to implement an onActivityResult() method in their activities and fragments, check which requestCode a result is referring to, verify that the requestCode is OK, and finally inspect its result data or extended data.

This leads to complicated code, and it doesn’t provide a type-safe interface for expected arguments when sending or receiving data from an activity.

What are the ActivityResult APIs?

The ActivityResult APIs were added to the Jetpack activity and fragment libraries, making it easier to get results from activities by providing type-safe contracts. These contracts define expected input and result types for common actions like taking a picture or requesting a permission, while also providing a way to create your own contracts.

The ActivityResult APIs provide components for registering for an activity result, launching a request, and handling its result once it is returned by the system. You can also receive the activity result in a separate class from where the activity is launched and still rely on the type-safe contracts.

How to use it

To demonstrate how to use the ActivityResult APIs, let’s go over an example where we’re opening a document.

First, you need to add the following dependencies to your gradle file:

repositories {
    google()
    maven()
}

dependencies {
  implementation "androidx.activity:activity:1.2.0-alpha02"
  implementation "androidx.activity:fragment:1.3.0-alpha02"
}

You need to register a callback along with the contract that defines its input and output types.

In this context, GetContent() refers to the ACTION_GET_DOCUMENT intent, and is one of the default contracts already defined in the Activity library. You can find the complete list of contracts here.

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

Now we need to launch our activity using the returned launcher. As you can set a mime type filter when listing the selectable files, GetContent.launch() will accept a string as a parameter:

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    // ...

    val selectButton = findViewById<Button>(R.id.select_button)

    selectButton.setOnClickListener {
        // Pass in the mime type you'd like to allow the user to select
        // as the input
        getContent.launch("image/*")
    }
}

Once an image has been selected and you return to your activity, your registered callback will be executed with the expected results. As you saw through the code snippets, ActivityResult brings an easier developer experience when dealing with results from activities.

Start using Activity 1.2.0-alpha02 and Fragment 1.3.0-alpha02 for a type-safe way to handle your intent results with the new ActivityResult APIs.

Let us know what you think and how we can make it better by providing feedback on the issue tracker.

Improving inter-activity communication with Jetpack ActivityResult

Posted by Yacine Rezgui, Developer Advocate

Whether you're requesting a permission, selecting a file from the system file manager, or expecting data from a 3rd party app, passing data between activities is a core element in inter-process communication on Android. We’ve recently released the new ActivityResult APIs to help handle these activity results.

Previously, to get results from started activities, apps needed to implement an onActivityResult() method in their activities and fragments, check which requestCode a result is referring to, verify that the requestCode is OK, and finally inspect its result data or extended data.

This leads to complicated code, and it doesn’t provide a type-safe interface for expected arguments when sending or receiving data from an activity.

What are the ActivityResult APIs?

The ActivityResult APIs were added to the Jetpack activity and fragment libraries, making it easier to get results from activities by providing type-safe contracts. These contracts define expected input and result types for common actions like taking a picture or requesting a permission, while also providing a way to create your own contracts.

The ActivityResult APIs provide components for registering for an activity result, launching a request, and handling its result once it is returned by the system. You can also receive the activity result in a separate class from where the activity is launched and still rely on the type-safe contracts.

How to use it

To demonstrate how to use the ActivityResult APIs, let’s go over an example where we’re opening a document.

First, you need to add the following dependencies to your gradle file:

repositories {
    google()
    maven()
}

dependencies {
  implementation "androidx.activity:activity:1.2.0-alpha02"
  implementation "androidx.activity:fragment:1.3.0-alpha02"
}

You need to register a callback along with the contract that defines its input and output types.

In this context, GetContent() refers to the ACTION_GET_DOCUMENT intent, and is one of the default contracts already defined in the Activity library. You can find the complete list of contracts here.

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

Now we need to launch our activity using the returned launcher. As you can set a mime type filter when listing the selectable files, GetContent.launch() will accept a string as a parameter:

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    // ...

    val selectButton = findViewById<Button>(R.id.select_button)

    selectButton.setOnClickListener {
        // Pass in the mime type you'd like to allow the user to select
        // as the input
        getContent.launch("image/*")
    }
}

Once an image has been selected and you return to your activity, your registered callback will be executed with the expected results. As you saw through the code snippets, ActivityResult brings an easier developer experience when dealing with results from activities.

Start using Activity 1.2.0-alpha02 and Fragment 1.3.0-alpha02 for a type-safe way to handle your intent results with the new ActivityResult APIs.

Let us know what you think and how we can make it better by providing feedback on the issue tracker.

Improving inter-activity communication with Jetpack ActivityResult

Posted by Yacine Rezgui, Developer Advocate

Whether you're requesting a permission, selecting a file from the system file manager, or expecting data from a 3rd party app, passing data between activities is a core element in inter-process communication on Android. We’ve recently released the new ActivityResult APIs to help handle these activity results.

Previously, to get results from started activities, apps needed to implement an onActivityResult() method in their activities and fragments, check which requestCode a result is referring to, verify that the requestCode is OK, and finally inspect its result data or extended data.

This leads to complicated code, and it doesn’t provide a type-safe interface for expected arguments when sending or receiving data from an activity.

What are the ActivityResult APIs?

The ActivityResult APIs were added to the Jetpack activity and fragment libraries, making it easier to get results from activities by providing type-safe contracts. These contracts define expected input and result types for common actions like taking a picture or requesting a permission, while also providing a way to create your own contracts.

The ActivityResult APIs provide components for registering for an activity result, launching a request, and handling its result once it is returned by the system. You can also receive the activity result in a separate class from where the activity is launched and still rely on the type-safe contracts.

How to use it

To demonstrate how to use the ActivityResult APIs, let’s go over an example where we’re opening a document.

First, you need to add the following dependencies to your gradle file:

repositories {
    google()
    maven()
}

dependencies {
  implementation "androidx.activity:activity:1.2.0-alpha02"
  implementation "androidx.activity:fragment:1.3.0-alpha02"
}

You need to register a callback along with the contract that defines its input and output types.

In this context, GetContent() refers to the ACTION_GET_DOCUMENT intent, and is one of the default contracts already defined in the Activity library. You can find the complete list of contracts here.

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

Now we need to launch our activity using the returned launcher. As you can set a mime type filter when listing the selectable files, GetContent.launch() will accept a string as a parameter:

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    // ...

    val selectButton = findViewById<Button>(R.id.select_button)

    selectButton.setOnClickListener {
        // Pass in the mime type you'd like to allow the user to select
        // as the input
        getContent.launch("image/*")
    }
}

Once an image has been selected and you return to your activity, your registered callback will be executed with the expected results. As you saw through the code snippets, ActivityResult brings an easier developer experience when dealing with results from activities.

Start using Activity 1.2.0-alpha02 and Fragment 1.3.0-alpha02 for a type-safe way to handle your intent results with the new ActivityResult APIs.

Let us know what you think and how we can make it better by providing feedback on the issue tracker.

Improving inter-activity communication with Jetpack ActivityResult

Posted by Yacine Rezgui, Developer Advocate

Whether you're requesting a permission, selecting a file from the system file manager, or expecting data from a 3rd party app, passing data between activities is a core element in inter-process communication on Android. We’ve recently released the new ActivityResult APIs to help handle these activity results.

Previously, to get results from started activities, apps needed to implement an onActivityResult() method in their activities and fragments, check which requestCode a result is referring to, verify that the requestCode is OK, and finally inspect its result data or extended data.

This leads to complicated code, and it doesn’t provide a type-safe interface for expected arguments when sending or receiving data from an activity.

What are the ActivityResult APIs?

The ActivityResult APIs were added to the Jetpack activity and fragment libraries, making it easier to get results from activities by providing type-safe contracts. These contracts define expected input and result types for common actions like taking a picture or requesting a permission, while also providing a way to create your own contracts.

The ActivityResult APIs provide components for registering for an activity result, launching a request, and handling its result once it is returned by the system. You can also receive the activity result in a separate class from where the activity is launched and still rely on the type-safe contracts.

How to use it

To demonstrate how to use the ActivityResult APIs, let’s go over an example where we’re opening a document.

First, you need to add the following dependencies to your gradle file:

repositories {
    google()
    maven()
}

dependencies {
  implementation "androidx.activity:activity:1.2.0-alpha02"
  implementation "androidx.activity:fragment:1.3.0-alpha02"
}

You need to register a callback along with the contract that defines its input and output types.

In this context, GetContent() refers to the ACTION_GET_DOCUMENT intent, and is one of the default contracts already defined in the Activity library. You can find the complete list of contracts here.

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

Now we need to launch our activity using the returned launcher. As you can set a mime type filter when listing the selectable files, GetContent.launch() will accept a string as a parameter:

val getContent = registerForActivityResult(GetContent()) { uri: Uri? ->
    // Handle the returned Uri
}

override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    // ...

    val selectButton = findViewById<Button>(R.id.select_button)

    selectButton.setOnClickListener {
        // Pass in the mime type you'd like to allow the user to select
        // as the input
        getContent.launch("image/*")
    }
}

Once an image has been selected and you return to your activity, your registered callback will be executed with the expected results. As you saw through the code snippets, ActivityResult brings an easier developer experience when dealing with results from activities.

Start using Activity 1.2.0-alpha02 and Fragment 1.3.0-alpha02 for a type-safe way to handle your intent results with the new ActivityResult APIs.

Let us know what you think and how we can make it better by providing feedback on the issue tracker.

Safer and More Transparent Access to User Location

Posted by Krish Vitaldevara, Director of Product Management Trust & Safety, Google Play

Last year, we made several changes to our platform and policies to increase user trust and safety. We’re proud of the work we’ve done to improve family safety, limit use of sensitive permissions, and catch bad actors before they ever reach the Play Store.

We realize that changes can lead to work for developers. Last year, you told us that you wanted more detailed communications about impactful updates, why we’re making them, and how to take action. You also asked for as much time as possible to make any changes required.

With that feedback in mind, today, we’re previewing Android and Google Play policy changes that will impact how developers access location in the background.

Giving users more control over their location data

Users consistently tell us that they want more control over their location data and that we should take every precaution to prevent misuse. Since the beginning of Android, users have needed to grant explicit permission to any app that wants access to their location data.

In Android 10, people were given additional control to only grant access when the app is in use, which makes location access more intentional. Users clearly appreciated this option as over half of users select “While app is in use.”

Now in Android 11, we’re giving users even more control with the ability to grant a temporary “one-time” permission to sensitive data like location. When users select this option, apps can only access the data until the user moves away from the app, and they must then request permission again for the next access. Please visit the Android 11 developer preview to learn more.

Preventing unnecessary access to background location

Users tell us they also want more protection on earlier versions of Android - as well as more transparency around how apps use this data.

As we took a closer look at background location usage, we found that many of the apps that requested background location didn’t actually need it. In fact, many of these apps could provide the same user experience by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user. We want to make it easier for users to choose when to share their location and they shouldn't be asked for a permission that the app doesn't need.

Later this year, we will be updating Google Play policy to require that developers get approval if they want to access location data in the background. Factors that will be looked at include:

  • Does the feature deliver clear value to the user?
  • Would users expect the app to access their location in the background?
  • Is the feature important to the primary purpose of the app?
  • Can you deliver the same experience without accessing location in the background?

All apps will be evaluated against the same factors, including apps made by Google, and all submissions will be reviewed by people on our team. Let’s take a look at three examples:

An app that sends emergency or safety alerts as part of its core functionality - and clearly communicates why access is needed to the user - would have a strong case to request background location.

A social networking app that allows users to elect to continuously share their location with friends would also have a strong case to access location in the background.

An app with a store locator feature would work just fine by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user. In this scenario, the app would not have a strong case to request background location under the new policy.

When we spoke to developers for feedback, the vast majority understood user concerns over their information falling into the wrong hands and were willing to change their location usage to be safer and more transparent.

Getting approval for background access

We know that when we update our policies, you want to get actionable feedback and have ample time to make changes. Before we implement this policy change, you will be able to submit your use case via the Play Console and receive feedback on whether it will be allowed under the new policy.

We anticipate the following timeline for this policy rollout; however, it is subject to change.

  • April: official Google Play policy update with background location
  • May: developers can request feedback on their use case via the Play Console with an estimated reply time of 2 weeks, depending on volume
  • August 3rd: all new apps submitted to Google Play that access background location will need to be approved
  • November 2nd: all existing apps that request background location will need to be approved or will be removed from Google Play

Review and evaluate your location access

We encourage all developers to review the following best practices for accessing location data in their apps:

  • Review the background location access checklist to identify any potential access in your code. Remember you are also responsible for ensuring all third party SDKs or libraries that you use comply with our policies, including access to background location.
  • Minimize your use of location by using the minimum scope necessary to provide a feature (i.e., coarse instead of fine, foreground instead of background).
  • Review privacy best practices and ensure you have the proper disclosure and privacy policies in place.

We hope you found this policy preview useful in planning your roadmap for the year and we appreciate your efforts to build privacy-friendly apps. Together, we can keep the Android ecosystem safe and secure for everyone.

Improving the update process with your feedback

Posted by Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, Android & Google Play

Thank you for all the feedback about updates we’ve been making to Android APIs and Play policies. We’ve heard your requests for improvement as well as some frustration. We want to explain how and why we’re making these changes, and how we are using your feedback to improve the way we roll out these updates and communicate with the developer community.

From the outset, we’ve sought to craft Android as a completely open source operating system. We’ve also worked hard to ensure backwards compatibility and API consistency, out of respect and a desire to make the platform as easy to use as possible. This developer-centric approach and openness have been cornerstones of Android’s philosophy from the beginning. These are not changing.

But as the platform grows and evolves, each decision we make comes with trade-offs. Everyday, billions of people around the world use the apps you’ve built to do incredible things like connect with loved ones, manage finances or communicate with doctors. Users want more control and transparency over how their personal information is being used by applications, and expect Android, as the platform, to do more to provide that control and transparency. This responsibility to users is something we have always taken seriously, and that’s why we are taking a comprehensive look at how our platform and policies reflect that commitment.

Taking a closer look at permissions

Earlier this year, we introduced Android Q Beta with dozens of features and improvements that provide users with more transparency and control, further securing their personal data. Along with the system-level changes introduced in Q, we’re also reviewing and refining our Play Developer policies to further enhance user privacy. For years, we’ve required developers to disclose the collection and use of personal data so users can understand how their information is being used, and to only use the permissions that are really needed to deliver the features and services of the app. As part of Project Strobe, which we announced last October, we are rolling out specific guidance for each of the Android runtime permissions, and we are holding apps developed by Google to the same standard.

We started with changes to SMS and Call Log permissions late last year. To better protect sensitive user data available through these permissions, we restricted access to select use cases, such as when an app has been chosen by the user to be their default text message app. We understood that some app features using this data would no longer be allowed -- including features that many users found valuable -- and worked with you on alternatives where possible. As a result, today, the number of apps with access to this sensitive information has decreased by more than 98%. The vast majority of these were able to switch to an alternative or eliminate minor functionality.

Learning from developer feedback

While these changes are critical to help strengthen privacy protections for our users, we’re sensitive that evolving the platform can lead to substantial work for developers. We have a responsibility to make sure you have the details and resources you need to understand and implement changes, and we know there is room for improvement there. For example, when we began enforcing these new SMS and Call Log policies, many of you expressed frustration about the decision making process. There were a number of common themes that we wanted to share:

  • Permission declaration form. Some of you felt that the use case descriptions in our permissions declaration form were unclear and hard to complete correctly.
  • Timeliness in review and appeals process. For some of you, it took too long to get answers on whether apps met policy requirements. Others felt that the process for appealing a decision was too long and cumbersome.
  • Getting information from a ‘real human’ at Google. Some of you came away with the impression that our decisions were automated, without human involvement. And others felt that it was hard to reach a person who could help provide details about our policy decisions and about new use cases proposed by developers.

In response, we are improving and clarifying the process, including:

  • More detailed communication. We are revising the emails we send for policy rejections and appeals to better explain with more details, including why a decision was made, how you can modify your app to comply, and how to appeal.
  • Evaluations and appeals. We will include appeal instructions in all enforcement emails and the appeal form with details can also be found in our Help Center. We will also be reviewing and improving our appeals process.
  • Growing the team. Humans, not bots, already review every sensitive decision but we are improving our communication so responses are more personalized -- and we are expanding our team to help accelerate the appeals process.

Evaluating developer accounts

We have also heard concerns from some developers whose accounts have been blocked from distributing apps through Google Play. While the vast majority of developers on Android are well-meaning, some accounts are suspended for serious, repeated violation of policies that protect our shared users. Bad-faith developers often try to get around this by opening new accounts or using other developers’ existing accounts to publish unsafe apps. While we strive for openness wherever possible, in order to prevent bad-faith developers from gaming our systems and putting our users at risk in the process, we can’t always share the reasons we’ve concluded that one account is related to another.

While 99%+ of these suspension decisions are correct, we are also very sensitive to how impactful it can be if your account has been disabled in error. You can immediately appeal any enforcement, and each appeal is carefully reviewed by a person on our team. During the appeals process, we will reinstate your account if we discover that an error has been made.

Separately, we will soon be taking more time (days, not weeks) to review apps by developers that don’t yet have a track record with us. This will allow us to do more thorough checks before approving apps to go live in the store and will help us make even fewer inaccurate decisions on developer accounts.

Thank you for your ongoing partnership and for continuing to make Android an incredibly helpful platform for billions of people around the world.

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Marshmallow and User Data

Posted by Joanna Smith, Developer Advocate and Giles Hogben, Google Privacy Team

Marshmallow introduced several changes that were designed to help your app look after user data. The goal was to make it easier for developers to do the right thing. So as Android 6.0, Marshmallow, gains traction, we challenge you to do just that.

This post highlights the key considerations for user trust when it comes to runtime permissions and hardware identifiers, and points you to new best practices documentation to clarify what to aim for in your own app.

Permission Changes

With Marshmallow, permissions have moved from install-time to runtime. This is a mandatory change for SDK 23+, meaning it will affect all developers and all applications targeting Android 6.0. Your app will need to be updated anyway, so your challenge is to do so thoughtfully.

Runtime permissions mean that your app can now request access to sensitive information in the context that it will be used. This gives you a chance to explain the need for the permission, without scaring users with a long list of requests.

Permissions are also now organized into groups, so that users can make an informed decision without needing to understand technical jargon. By allowing your users to make a decision, they may decide not to grant a permission or to revoke a previously-granted permission. So, your app needs to be thoughtful when handling API calls requiring permissions that may have been denied, and about building in graceful failure-handling so that your users can still interact with the rest of your app.

Identifier Changes

The other aspect of user trust is doing the right thing with user data. With Marshmallow, we are turning off access to some kinds of data in order to direct developers down this path.

Most notably, Local WiFi and Bluetooth MAC addresses are no longer available. The getMacAddress() method of a WifiInfo object and the BluetoothAdapter.getDefaultAdapter().getAddress() method will both return 02:00:00:00:00:00 from now on.

However, Google Play Services now provides Instance IDs, which identify an application instance running on a device. Instance IDs provide a reliable alternative to non-resettable, device-scoped hardware IDs, as they will not persist across a factory reset and are scoped to an app instance. See the Google Developer's What is Instance ID? help article for more information.

What’s Next

User trust depends largely on what users see and how they feel. Mishandling permissions and identifiers increases the risk of unwanted/unintended tracking, and can result in users feeling that your app doesn’t actually care about the user. So to help you get it right, we’ve created new documentation that should enable developers to be certain that their app is doing the right thing for their users.

So happy developing! May your apps make users happy, and may your reviews reflect that. :)

API 23 SDK now available for Android Wear

Posted by Wayne Piekarski, Developer Advocate

The new LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE is the first watch to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow (API 23) for Android Wear. Currently, all other Android Wear watches implement API 22, and in the coming months, these will receive an OTA update for API 23 as well.

So what does this mean for you as an Android Wear developer? You will need to ensure that your apps are compatible with both API 23 and API 22 watches. While you can start implementing the new features in this post, you still need to maintain backwards compatibility until all watches are upgraded.

New permissions model and samples

API 23 introduces a new runtime permissions model for both phones and watches. The new permissions model allows users to pick and choose which permissions to grant apps at the time of use. In addition, new permissions settings allow users to turn on and off app permissions at any time.

To use the new permissions model on Wear, read Permissions on Android Wear. This training guide provides an in-depth discussion of Wear-specific scenarios, such as when your Wear app relies on a phone-side permission. In addition, all of the Android Wear samples have been updated to use the new permissions model, and a new RuntimePermissionsWear sample shows how to handle permission requests across devices.

When you are ready, you can update your application on both the phone and watch side to use compileSdkVersion 23 and targetSdkVersion 23. Make sure that you check and request the permissions needed by your app at runtime, on both the phone and the watch. It is important that you do not change targetSdkVersion to 23 until you have implemented the permission checks properly, since it changes how the system installs and runs the app. For example, an API call that might have previously returned a result could now fail, causing the app to behave in unexpected ways.

-round and -notround resource qualifiers

API 23 makes it easier to build apps for both round and square Android Wear watches. We listened to your feedback and added new resource qualifiers for -round and -notround, so you can use the resource system to load the appropriate images, layouts, and strings based on the type of watch you are working with. You can also combine this with existing resource qualifiers -hdpi, -tvdpi, -280dpi, and -360dpi for the various Android Wear watches that are currently available. All of the existing classes in the wearable UI library, such as WatchViewStub, BoxInsetLayout, and WearableFrameLayout will continue to work as well, so you do not need to change your code. The -round and -notround resource qualifiers will not work on API 22 devices, so you cannot assume they will be available until all devices are on API 23.

Watches with speakers

The LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE is the first watch to include speaker support, so you can now add sounds to your Wear app. You can play audio files using the same APIs that are available on Android phones, such as AudioTrack, MediaPlayer, and ExoPlayer. Check out the sample and documentation to learn how to detect when the speaker is available on a Wear device and play sounds through it.

Intel x86 support

The new TAG Heuer Connected, along with other upcoming Android Wear watches, is based on Intel x86 processors. If you are working only with Java code, your apps will automatically work on any architecture. However, if you’re using the NDK, you’ll need to provide both armeabi-v7a and x86 shared libraries in your wearable APK. Since only one wearable app can be bundled in a phone app, it is not possible to deliver different APKs to different watches based on architecture. If your wearable APK is missing an x86 library, it will fail to install on x86 watches with INSTALL_FAILED_NO_MATCHING_ABIS and code -113.

If you are using Android Studio, you will need to adjust your build.gradle file to include:

ndk {
  abiFilters = ['armeabi-v7a','x86']
}

If you are using the NDK directly, you will need to modify your Application.mk file to use:

APP_ABI := armeabi-v7a x86

These changes should only be made for the wearable APK, and you can continue to support other ABIs on the phone side. You can test your application by checking if it works on the x86 emulator provided by the SDK Manager.

Updated emulator

New Android Wear emulator images for API 23 and x86 watches are available to download from the SDK Manager in Android Studio. We have also added profiles that represent every available Android Wear watch, so you can easily test on any device you want. It is also important that you understand and test all the combinations of phones (API <= 22, API = 23) and wearables (API 22, API 23), so that your app works for all users.

Updates to existing watches

The new emulator images allow you to get started immediately with testing and deploying updated apps for users with API 23 watches. The schedule for updating existing Android Wear watches via OTA updates has not been announced yet. We will announce the update schedule on the Android Wear Developers Google+ community. We’ll also let you know when the rollout is complete, and API 22 support for Android Wear is no longer needed.

Google Play services 8.1: Get ready for Marshmallow!

Posted by, Magnus Hyytsten, Developer Advocate

With the rollout of Google Play services 8.1 finally finished, there’s a lot of new information to share with developers about the release!

Marshmallow Permissions

Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) has introduced a new permissions model allowing users to control app permissions at runtime. As an app developer, it’s important for you to adopt this and give your users good control over the permissions your app needs. You can find more details here.

If your app is using Google Play services SDK versions prior to 8.1, you must update to use this new version to ensure your app is fully compatible with Android 6.0. This will enable you to manage the permission flows appropriately for your app and avoid any potential connection issues. For more details, and a step-by-step guide to what your app should do for the best user experience, take a look at this blog post on the Android Developers site.

App Invites

App Invites allows you to grow your apps audience by letting existing Android and iOS users invite their Google contacts via email or SMS to try your app out. Google Play services 8.1 adds the ability for developers to customize the email invitation, including adding a custom image, and specifying a call-to-action button text. These improvements should help developers increase user engagement and conversions with app invites.

Ambient Mode Maps

Android Wear provides a feature called ambient mode, enabling apps to stay visible, even when they aren’t actively being used. Now, with Google Play services 8.1, the Google Maps Android API supports ambient mode. In this mode, a simplified low-color rendering of the map will be seen. This reduces power consumption by lighting fewer pixels, but the camera and zoom level are retained, so user context will be kept. To learn more about ambient mode, check out this blog post.

Nearby Status Listener

Google Nearby allows you to build simple interactions between nearby devices. A new addition in Google Play services allows your app to receive callbacks when an active Nearby publish or subscribe expires. This frees you from tracking the TTL and allows your app's UI to accurately reflect whether Nearby is active or not.

Play Games Player Stats API

The new Play Games Player Stats API allows you to build better, smarter, games. It will let you tailor user experiences to specific segments of players and different stages of the player lifecycle. For example, you can give your most valuable players that are returning from a break in play a special welcome back message and reward.

Breaking Changes

In this release, there are some changes to GoogleApiClient and PendingResult, making them abstract classes, which may lead to breaking changes in your code. Learn more about these changes and how to handle them in the release notes.



SDK Now available!

You can get started developing today by downloading the Google Play services SDK from the Android SDK Manager. To learn more about Google Play services and the APIs available to you through it, visit our documentation on Google Developers.