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Multi-user Coming to Phones in “Next Public Release”

August 6, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

Remember the days of the Nexus 4, the highest-quality Nexus device, or really any Android device up to that time.  Also recall how the Nexus 7, the largest-screen pure Android experience that got the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update and a feature that many have thought should exist across Android as a whole.  That feature was multi-user support and profile restrictions. The idea was similar if not identical to the user profiles on a home computer or laptop, but applied to your Android tablet.  The feature had a massive bug list in the initial release in 4.2, and it only improved with each subsequent update continuing up through Android 4.4.4, Kit Kat.  That’s not the best part, though it is great.

Today, in a Developer Preview issue tracker posting, we essentially got confirmation of this great feature’s existence on phones in the “next public build” of Android.  This may not seem that big of a deal to many of us right now.  But consider this if you will.  You are a parent with an Android device, say it’s a Nexus 5, and around the winter holidays’ season you and your two-year-old daughter go shopping for a Christmas ham, but she gets bored and wants to play Angry Birds on your phone while you’re being productive in the store.  You’ve heard about the kids that unknowingly, and rather stupidly to be blunt about it, spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars of their parent’s/s’ money while the parent just carries on.  You figured your daughter would want to play some games, so this morning over breakfast, you set up a restricted profile that only allowed her access to Angry Birds, and nothing else on your main line of communication.  You just switch to that user profile and hand your device off, making sure Wi-Fi and mobile data are turned off, and you can carry out your shopping worry-free of purchases or accidental gibberish in texts and emails to friends, family, and coworkers.

Now, accounting for the stereotyping of parents that just hand off their phones or tablets, how great does that sound?  Create a new user, set what apps they can access, switch to it, and let them have at it.  It really is that simple currently in Android on tablets, and it is apparently coming to smartphones as well.  Now I among many am really hoping that manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and LG get their Android L software out as soon as possible after the official launch this fall.  What feature, given that this is now in the list of options, are you most excited about in the upcoming Android version?  Let us know.