SD Card Access Changes for the Better in Android L

Galaxy Note 3 Back Camera SIM SD Card 2

When Android 4.4 KitKat came out, users rightfully rejoices when they finally received the update from their manufacturer of choice.  Naturally this update was a big one and featured lots of positive changes and new features that users wanted to have adopted to their phones.  Unfortunately since it usually takes manufacturers a few months to get the latest Android update out to their phones, we didn’t find out about a nasty SD card permissions change until the end of February.  Even then it wasn’t 100% clear that this was Google’s doing, but after some digging and even developers becoming confused everyone realized the worst: Google effectively killed SD cards as we knew it with Android 4.4 KitKat.  Yes there are simple workarounds if you have root access, but that vast majority of Android users don’t have this (and shouldn’t ever considering the security risk it poses), so it’s not a solution for most people.

Now thankfully it looks like Google has heeded the call of the masses and decided to change permissions for SD card usage in Android L, the next version of Android due to be released sometime this fall.  What Google hasn’t done, however, is completely revert all the changes in KitKat, rather they have modified them to allow users to choose where they want apps to access the SD card.  See the purpose of Google’s change to the SD card in KitKat was for security reasons.  Giving all apps full permission to what’s stored on your SD card can be dangerous if you don’t know what the app does in the first place.  This could open up apps to have access to personal information or other sensitive info (pictures and video) stored on your SD card, and untold other legions of horrors of course.

Instead Google is activating a new permission in Android L that allows the user to choose, from within the app that’s written to do so of course, which folders it is allowed to write to.  So if you’re using a photo editing app or 3rd party camera and can’t get access to that DCIM folder on the SD card where all your photos are stored, never fear, because now with Android L you’ll be able to choose that path in the app and it’ll have access to that folder and all sub folders too.  Jeff Sharkey posted on the android-platform developer group in Google Groups about this new permission and explains that you can even select the root of the SD card, giving apps full permission again to do whatever they want on the SD card.  This is being allowed because it’s the user making the choice, and will thus give the user the full permissions that they request.  This is obviously a very welcomed request, especially for those peeved about the changes in KitKat, since Android L is such a massive positive change that users will want to have this year.