Android 4.3 permission manager; what it is and how it works [HOWTO]

July 26, 2013
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Android 4.3

Android 4.3 is out! Even though it’s an incremental update at best, it still brought with it a number of enhancements and features, including support for 4k displays. However, that’s not all Android 4.3 was packing. Underneath the improvements we could see in Android 4.3 was a secret feature that is, for the time being, hidden. Much like the multi-user feature in earlier versions of Android, this hidden feature can only be accessed if you know where to look for it. So what is it exactly? It’s a Permissions Manager.

Okay, here’s some Android 101. When you download an app, the app usually requires permissions. GPS apps need to access your GPS so it can find your location. Most of the time, they make sense. Sometimes, they do not make sense. For instance, Facebook wants to read your call logs. We have no idea why Facebook would want to read your call log, but it does. The idea behind this Permission Manager hidden in Android 4.3 is to give you control over what permissions apps are allowed to have. So if you don’t want Facebook to see your call logs, you can tell it to stop.

As Android Police reports, this hidden feature is actually accessible to anyone who is running Android 4.3. So if you have that lovely update, this is available to you right now. Don’t know how to use it? That’s okay, we’ll tell you. If you have Android 4.3 and you want to try out this permission manager, here’s our how-to.

  • Step 1 – Have Android 4.3.
  • Step 2 – Download this application. This app will give you access to what is called “App ops”, which is the Permission Manager.
  • Step 3 – …
  • Step 4 – Profit!

I’m in the Android 4.3 Permission Manager. Now what?

That was easier than expected, right? So once you’re in the Permission Manager, you’ll need to know how to use it. The first thing you’ll see is a list of apps and 4 tabs. The tabs are Location, Personal, Messaging, and Device. These organize your apps based on what permissions they use. If you download Google Hangouts, it’s probably in the messaging list. Things like your camera app will likely be in device. You get the idea.

From there, you can select any app on the list. You’ll then be presented by every permission that app uses with a handy on-off switch. From here, you can turn various permissions on and off. Don’t want Facebook to read your call logs? Turn it off! Don’t want it to know where you are? Turn off the location permission. Keep in mind that the app will still work, it just won’t be able to do those things. So if you, for instance, check into places over Facebook, turning off the location permissions will likely make that feature much more difficult to use.

The last thing we’ll talk about is what the Permission Manager can see. As Ron Amadeo reports, some permissions don’t even show up until you use them in the app. In his example, the “Camera” and “read call log” permissions didn’t even show up until he imported his contacts into Facebook and then posted something with his camera. So keep in mind if you try it out, you may have to fiddle with the app a little bit to get all the permissions to show up.

Lastly, as you can probably imagine, this isn’t a fully working feature yet. While something simple like disabling “read call log” won’t do much of anything, other permissions in other apps can. If you disable the Camera permission in your camera app, your camera app will cease to function properly. If you disable Location in Google Maps, it won’t be able to find you in order to give you directions. There is a reason this is a hidden feature and that is because it is not ready yet. So if you do use the Permission Manager, you do so at your own risk.

Standard boilerplate aside, is there anyone who will be checking this functionality out? Or would you rather wait until it’s a live feature? If you want to discuss it, feel free to do so in our comment section.

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