Back during Google I/O 2014, Google started a trend that has continued ever since, releasing new versions of Android as Developer Previews. Back then it was Android 5.0 Lollipop that was released simply as “L” in a Developer Preview, and now we’re dealing with Android N, which has just hit its third Developer Preview and just seems to be getting more and more feature-packed. Now, it appears as though Cloud Storage is about get easier to use and easier to manage in Android N, thanks to new features being added to the Storage Access Framework (SAF). The SAF was introduced back in Android 4.4 KitKat and it made opening up different types of files from within apps much more consistent and straightforward, this is the part of Android that gives us that clean interface when choosing files.
Now, the SAF is about to get the ability to create virtual files of those stored in Cloud Storage somewhere, allowing you to open up an image or music file in a local app without said file actually being on local storage somewhere. This represents a sizeable change to the underlying framework of Android and how it handles files, and could lead to bigger changes down the line, but for right now developers will need to get familiar with this new way of doing things. Making sure your app is able and willing to see and use files from the cloud is fairly easy, as all of the code is being piped into Android N itself.
This is explicitly highlighted as “Virtual Files” in the Preview Documentation for Android N, available from the Android developers site linked at the source link below. This is subject to change of course, thanks to the nature of Developer Previews, but it’s a good idea to get testing this sort of thing if you’re an app developer with something that opens files a lot of the time. As for users that might think this is a boring change, it won’t be the sort of thing that will change the way you use Android, but it will make finding all of your files within apps, no matter where they might be, a hell of a lot easier than it has been in the past.