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Responding to Media Buttons

Media buttons are hardware buttons found on Android devices and other peripheral devices, for example, the pause/play button on a Bluetooth headset. When a user presses a media button, Android generates a KeyEvent, which contains a key code that identifies the button. The key codes for media button KeyEvents are constants that begin with KEYCODE_MEDIA (for example, KEYCODE_MEDIA_PLAY).

Apps should be able to handle media button events in three cases, in this order of priority:

Handling media buttons in a foreground activity

The foreground activity receives the media button key event in its onKeyDown() method. Depending on the running version of Android, there are two ways the system routes the event to a media controller:

Finding a media session

If the foreground activity does not handle the event, Android will try to find a media session that can handle it. Again, depending on the running version of Android, there are two ways to search for a media session:

Handling media buttons in an active media session

On Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher, Android automatically dispatches media button events to your active media session by calling onMediaButtonEvent(). By default this callback translates the KeyEvent into the appropriate media session Callback method that matches the key code.

Prior to Android 5.0 (API level 21), Android handles media button events by broadcasting an intent with the ACTION_MEDIA_BUTTON action. Your app must register a BroadcastReceiver to intercept these intents. The MediaButtonReceiver class was designed specifically for this purpose. It is a convenience class in the Android media-compat library that handles ACTION_MEDIA_BUTTON and translates the incoming Intents into the appropriate MediaSessionCompat.Callback method calls.

A MediaButtonReceiver is a short-lived BroadcastReceiver. It forwards incoming intents to the service that is managing your media session. If you want to use media buttons in systems earlier than Android 5.0 you must include the MediaButtonReceiver in your manifest with a MEDIA_BUTTON intent filter.:

<receiver android:name="" >
     <action android:name="android.intent.action.MEDIA_BUTTON" />

The BroadcastReceiver forwards the intent to your service. To parse the intent and generate the callback to your media session, include the MediaButtonReceiver.handleIntent() method in your service's onStartCommand(). This translates the key code into the appropriate session callback method.

private MediaSessionCompat mMediaSessionCompat = ...;

 public int onStartCommand(Intent intent, int flags, int startId) {
   MediaButtonReceiver.handleIntent(mMediaSessionCompat, intent);
   return super.onStartCommand(intent, flags, startId);

Using media buttons to restart an inactive media session

If Android can identify the last active media session, it tries to restart the session by sending an ACTION_MEDIA_BUTTON Intent to a manifest-registered component (such as a service or BroadcastReceiver).

This lets your app restart playback while its UI is not visible, which is the case for most audio apps.

This behavior is automatically enabled when you use MediaSessionCompat. If you use the Android framework's MediaSession or Support Library 24.0.0 through 25.1.1 you must call setMediaButtonReceiver to let a media button restart an inactive media session.

You can disable this behavior in Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher by setting a null media button receiver:

    // Create a MediaSessionCompat
    mMediaSession = new MediaSessionCompat(context, LOG_TAG);

Customizing media button handlers

The default behavior for onMediaButtonEvent() extracts the key code and uses the media session's current state and list of supported actions to determine which method to call. For instance, KEYCODE_MEDIA_PLAY invokes onPlay().

To provide a consistent media button experience across all apps, you should use the default behavior and only deviate for a specific purpose. If a media button needs custom handling, override your callback’s onMediaButtonEvent() method, extract the KeyEvent using intent.getParcelableExtra(Intent.EXTRA_KEY_EVENT), handle the event yourself, and return true.


To properly handle media button events in all versions of Android, you must specify FLAG_HANDLES_MEDIA_BUTTONS when you create a media session.

In addition, depending on the Android versions you plan to support, you must also meet these requirements:

When running in Android 5.0 or later:

When running in systems earlier than Android 5.0:

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