Good news for people who like to share devices: the next version of Android will apparently support multiple user accounts on the same device. This means that two people could conceivably share the same device and yet have apps that access their own contacts, emails, Facebook account and so on.
The news came in an exchange between Android developers – where one of the official development team responded to the following feature request:
“Tablets are able to have multiple accounts for multiple users, allowing the users to install an app only for themselfes. Storage space of phones is growing, 32GB or even 64GB. For example, some families are sharing their phones with their kids for gaming. On a tablet, you can set up an account for your kids and restrict the access on your own apps. My idea is to enable the multi-user feature on phone type devices, with adding an extra restricted account type for kids.”
“Parents can select wether they enable Play Store access or not. Also, it should be selectable if the child user is allowed to have a Google account or not. A childs Google account should have a age restriction for Google apps and the Play Store (optional). Parents can select what types of apps their child can install, and the Child’s Google account should be unable to create a G+ profile until it is old enough (optional).”
To which the Android official responded:
“The development team has implemented this feature and it will be available as a part of the next public build.”
This seems like a bizarrely low-key way of revealing quite a big feature. It’d be a first for mobile devices, which for both Android and Apple have always been tied to individual users. The reason it hasn’t happened until now is presumably for a couple of reasons: First, they don’t want two people to share a phone when they could sell them a phone each (I guess they’ve realised that almost everyone has a phone now), and secondly the technical challenge of what to do when two different people are tied to the same phone number. It isn’t entirely clear how Google has solved this second problem… perhaps it has just given up and realised that phone calls aren’t the most important thing on phones any more?
We’re not sure exactly which “next public build” the response refers to – but will let you know when the feature pops up.
By James O'Malley | August 7th, 2014