Chromebooks to Get Better External Storage Management (Read/Write Access to Android Apps)

Google appears to be working on improving external storage management on Chromebooks, especially around Android apps. A recent code change added to the Chromium OS code base shows talks about giving Read/Write access to Android apps.

External Storage List in Settings

The changelog on the code commit takes clearly about what it intends to do:

“Add external storage list in Settings to mark them visible to apps”

“This adds a list of external storages (e.g. USB sticks) in Settings > Device > Storage management > External storage preference. Each entry for an external storage has an toggle switch. If a user enables the switch, the corresponding storage becomes visible to Android
apps, which means that Android apps can read/write files on the storage. The list of enabled storage’s UUIDs will be kept in a preference.”

design doc: go/arc-visible-external-volumes

Bug: 954228

Unfortunately, the bug and the design document are not available for us to review. Even without those documents, we can clearly see that we will see new options within the Chrome OS Settings app. This will include a toggle to make external storage devices connected to the Chromebook available to Android apps.

Is This Really New?

According to an article by Kevin Tofel at About Chromebooks, Chrome OS version 72 added a toggle available within each app to allow it to access external storage devices like SD cards. He managed to download movies offline using both Google Play Movies and Netflix.

Kevin notes that Chrome OS 72 change was around “Android apps using direct /storage and MediaStore APIs.” The “MediaStore API” has been defined as “The contract between the media provider and applications. Contains definitions for the supported URIs and columns.” in Android documentation.

MediaStore API is used by apps that store media files such as Audio, Video, and Images on the external storage media. The change that we are looking at might be to provide Read/Write access to all Android apps to store files and access them?

If you are an Android developer, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Hit me up in the comments section.

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