Though Google Inc. has delayed the Android 5.0 Lollipop update for older Nexus smartphones and tablets, the new operating system includes a fix that many users, and especially developers, should appreciate. Android 5.0 users will once again have control over microSD card permissions, Android programmer Jeff Sharkey confirmed.
Google made changes to its operating system in Android 4.4 KitKat for the sake of security, which rendered many third-party applications unusable. Third-party apps were not allowed permission to put files anywhere on a microSD card outside of their own folders. While the change was complicated, many users complained about how it affected their favorite apps. A photo-viewer app, for example, would have access to the pictures folder on a device before Android 4.4, and could save images to that folder. After the Android 4.4 update, this function was disabled, meaning a photo viewer could not access any images to view within its application unless the images were in that app.
But Google has changed this function once again in Android 5.0 to allow users to decide which third-party applications can have "write" permissions on a microSD card. Sharkey shared details about the fix on Google Groups.
We heard loud and clear that developers wanted richer access beyond these directories, so in Lollipop we added the new ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT_TREE intent. Apps can launch this intent to pick and return a directory from any supported DocumentProvider, including any of the shared storage supported by the device. Apps can then create, update, and delete files and directories anywhere under the picked tree without any additional user interaction. Just like the other document intents, apps can persist this access across reboots.
Google intended the original change to be a security feature for Android, to prevent malware from having access to a device’s folders through a MicroSD card. But the Android 4.4 change was such an issue that third-party developers created their own software fix. However, the fix was only for the tech-savvy who know how to gain root access on their phones.
Google’s Nexus devices do not include external storage support through a microSD card; however, devices from many other Android-based manufacturers, such as Samsung Electronics Co., do have microSD support.
Android 5.0 Lollipop comes with its own security measures, including default data encryption, which makes data on a device unreadable without the proper passcode. Though Android users could encrypt their devices in the past, Google has now made the feature standard. The Android operating system has been more susceptible to malicious attacks with 97 percent of all malware being found on Android devices.