Google is “borrowing” one of iOS’s innovations, Android 14, by dropping full permissions for accessing media files in favor of a system that allows selective ticking of permissions, only for certain collections of photos or videos.
The changes present in the new Photo Picker API, included with the first Android 14 Developer Preview, come to improve one of the big shortcomings of the Android platform, on the security side. This will make it easier for unwary users to give untrusted apps unlimited permissions to access photos or videos stored on their device.
The Photo Picker component is part of the Google Play Services package and is used even by previous OS versions up to Android 4.4. Thus, owners of devices not updated to the latest version of Android will eventually benefit from these changes, as the new version of the API will be applied via Play Store updates. Further, apps that use the Android Photo Picker menu for viewing or uploading media files will automatically comply with the new permissions system.
At the moment, only a few app developers have switched to using the default Photo Picker API, adapting existing apps will require fairly consistent code changes. Although the latest Android 14 DP1 release forces apps to use the Photo Picker API for accessing media files, the measure does not apply retroactively to other Android releases. Thus, it’s unlikely that the new permissions system will be widely adopted before the official Android 14 release, scheduled for August.