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Storage updates in Android 11

Android 11 (API level 30) further enhances the platform, giving better protection to app and user data on external storage. This release introduces several enhancements, such as opt-in raw file path access for media, batch edit operations for media, and an updated UI for the Storage Access Framework.

The release also offers improvements to scoped storage, which makes it easier for developers to fulfill their storage use cases after they migrate to using this storage model.

Scoped storage enforcement

Apps that run on Android 11 but target Android 10 (API level 29) can still request the requestLegacyExternalStorage attribute. This flag allows apps to temporarily opt out of the changes associated with scoped storage, such as granting access to different directories and different types of media files. After you update your app to target Android 11, the system ignores the requestLegacyExternalStorage flag.

Maintain compatibility with Android 10

If your app opts out of scoped storage when running on Android 10 devices, it's recommended that you continue to set requestLegacyExternalStorage to true in your app's manifest file. That way, your app can continue to behave as expected on devices that run Android 10.

Migrate data to directories that are visible when using scoped storage

If your app uses the legacy storage model and previously targeted Android 10 or lower, you might be storing data in a directory that your app cannot access when the scoped storage model is enabled. Before you target Android 11, migrate data to a directory that's compatible with scoped storage.

Test scoped storage

To enable scoped storage in your app, regardless of your app's target SDK version and manifest flag values, enable the following app compatibility flags:

To disable scoped storage and use the legacy storage model instead, unset both flags.

Manage device storage

Starting in Android 11, apps that use the scoped storage model can access only their own app-specific cache files. If your app needs to manage device storage, follow the instructions on how to query free space.

  1. Check for free space by invoking the ACTION_MANAGE_STORAGE intent action.
  2. If there isn't enough free space on the device, prompt the user to give your app consent to clear all caches. To do so, invoke the ACTION_CLEAR_APP_CACHE intent action.

App-specific directory on external storage

Starting in Android 11, apps cannot create their own app-specific directory on external storage. To access the directory that the system provides for your app, call getExternalFilesDirs().

Media file access

To make it easier to access media while retaining user privacy, Android 11 adds the following capabilities.

Perform batch operations

For consistency across devices and added user convenience, Android 11 adds several methods that make it easier to manage groups of media files.

Access files using direct file paths and native libraries

To help your app work more smoothly with third-party media libraries, Android 11 allows you to use APIs other than the MediaStore API to access media files from shared storage using direct file paths. These APIs include the following:

  • The File API.
  • Native libraries, such as fopen().

Access to data from other apps

To protect user privacy, on devices that run Android 11 or higher, the system further restricts your app's access to other apps' private directories.

Access to data directories on internal storage

Android 9 (API level 28) started to restrict which apps could make the files in their data directories on internal storage world-accessible to other apps. Apps that target Android 9 or higher cannot make the files in their data directories world-accessible.

Android 11 expands upon this restriction. If your app targets Android 11, it cannot access the files in any other app's data directory, even if the other app targets Android 8.1 (API level 27) or lower and has made the files in its data directory world-readable.

Access to app-specific directories on external storage

On Android 11, apps can no longer access files in any other app's dedicated, app-specific directory within external storage.

Document access restrictions

To give developers time for testing, the following changes related to the Storage Access Framework (SAF) take effect only if your app targets Android 11 or higher.

Access to directories

You can no longer use the ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT_TREE intent action to request access to the following directories:

  • The root directory of the internal storage volume.
  • The root directory of each SD card volume that the device manufacturer considers to be reliable, regardless of whether the card is emulated or removable. A reliable volume is one that an app can successfully access most of the time.
  • The Download directory.

Access to files

You can no longer use the ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT_TREE or the ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT intent action to request that the user select individual files from the following directories:

  • The Android/data/ directory and all subdirectories.
  • The Android/obb/ directory and all subdirectories.

Test the change

To test this behavior change, do the following:

  1. Invoke an intent with the ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT action. Check that the Android/data/ and Android/obb/ directories both don't appear.
  2. Do one of the following:
  3. Invoke an intent with the ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT_TREE action. Check that the Download directory appears and the action button associated with the directory is grayed out.

Permissions

Android 11 introduces the following changes related to storage permissions.

Target any version

The first dialog presents a link called Allow in settings
Figure 1. Dialog shown when an app uses scoped storage and requests the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission.

The following changes take effect in Android 11, regardless of your app's target SDK version:

  • The Storage runtime permission is renamed to Files & Media.
  • If your app hasn't opted out of scoped storage and requests the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, users see a different dialog compared to Android 10. The dialog indicates that your app is requesting access to photos and media, as shown in Figure 1.

    Users can see which apps have the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission in system settings. On the Settings > Privacy > Permission manager > Files and media page, each app that has the permission is listed under Allowed for all files. If your app targets Android 11, keep in mind that this access to "all files" is read-only. To read and write to all files in shared storage using this app, you need to have the all files access permission.

Target Android 11

If your app targets Android 11, both the WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission and the WRITE_MEDIA_STORAGE privileged permission no longer provide any additional access.

Keep in mind that, on devices that run Android 10 (API level 29) or higher, your app can contribute to well-defined media collections such as MediaStore.Downloads without requesting any storage-related permissions. Learn more about how to request only the necessary permissions when working with media files in your app.

All files access

The majority of apps that require shared storage access can follow the best practices for sharing media files and sharing non-media files. However, some apps have a core use case that requires broad access of files on a device, but cannot do so efficiently using the privacy-friendly storage best practices. Android provides a special app access called All files access for these situations. To learn more, see the guide on how to manage all files on a storage device.

Additional resources

For more information about changes to storage in Android 11, view the following materials:

Blog posts

Videos