Android 5.0 improves SD cards, extends API and adds automatic MediaStore!

November 5, 2014 - Written By Melissa Bailey

The way in which SD cards are handled by the Android Operating System (OS) has been a hot topic over the past few years.  A recent policy change that led to 3rd-party applications losing access to removable storage has been an issue.  However, Google has acknowledged that KitKat’s new Storage Access Framework still does not offer enough range for apps to work to their full potential.  New Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have been added with the release of the L Developer Preview that allow apps to request access to other providers’ directories.  Android 5.0 Lollipop has recently been finalized and has extended APIs to allow full directory access, automatic MediaStore and improved security.

These new features are user-friendly and there are few changes to functionality.  The Storage Access Framework (SAF) that allows apps to ask for access to files and directories (including sub-directories) can now provide full SD card access to an app.  This feature puts a stop to apps requesting access repeatedly and all future operations can occur as normal.  Ultimately, it means that users are in charge of the apps having access to different parts of the device storage.

But wait, there’s more when it comes to storage!  Apps that have photos, music and videos tend to take up space very quickly and thus end up pushing their content onto the SD card.  The new “getExternalMediaDirs” method simplified the process of content being placed inside private folders and inserted into the MediaStore manually by generating a folder that is open to the public, while still tying it to the app that created it.  If the user places a file into a folder returned by getExternalMediaDirs, it is available to any other app to access via the MediaStore service, which is great for a camera or sound recorder app and also stops the need to remove and reinsert SD cards.

Ultimately, power users will no longer need to work with strained fil managers, media apps have easy and convenient access to everything needed regardless of where the information is stored, and developers won’t need to work around the unnecessary controls.  Now that I’ve just talked them up, please remember it may be a while before the benefits are able to be reaped as these new features are part of Android 5.0 and above.  In the meantime, we can rest assured Android is working hard to make us happy!