UPDATED 13:00 EST / APRIL 26 2022


Android 13 Beta 1 launches with improved security and privacy

The Android team at Google LLC today announced the first beta version of the upcoming Android 13 operating system with refinements for security, privacy and productivity.

This release brings on the next phase of Android 13 development by finalizing the features set in the previous developer previews and putting them into a beta release. During beta release, most of the features are prepared for developers to test and update their own apps so that they know that their apps will remain fully compatible.

“There’s a lot to explore in Android 13, from privacy features like the new notification permission and photo picker, to APIs that help you build great experiences, like themed app icons, quick settings tile placement, and per-app language support, as well as capabilities like Bluetooth LE audio and MIDI 2.0 over USB,” said Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android.

All of those features were present in the previous Android 13 previews so that developers could get a jumpstart on preparations. New features in Beta 1 include granular permissions for media file access, anticipatory audio routing and better error reporting for key generation. These additions should enhance security and performance for developers using audio media and overall security on devices.

On older Android OS versions, when an app wanted access to media files on local storage, it would request READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, which would provide access to all media files. That wasn’t ideal because it would open up everything in storage irrespective of the media type. With granular permissions, there are new permission requests that categorize into specific media types including images, video and audio: READ_MEDIA_IMAGES, READ_MEDIA_VIDEO and READ_MEDIA_AUDIO.

When it comes to routing audio, it’s now possible to call a new API in the AudioManager class for media apps to identify audio attributes. For example, Android now makes it possible to retrieve potential devices that may be used to play audio and draw attributes to better understand whether the audio can be played directly. This will allow developers to determine the proper format and device to play through.

Finally, when apps generate cryptographic keys for signing or encryption, the Keystore and KeyMint systems now produce more accurate errors. That’s important for onboard security involving encryption and apps that require its use as it adds Android-specific exceptions that include Keystore/KeyMint error codes. With more accurate codes, developers can tell if an error is catastrophic or if a key generation can be retried. Examples could be if the user was not authenticated or if the underlying encryption system was simply not fully loaded.

Beta 1 is currently available for download and installation on supported Pixel devices through enrollment on the beta site. Developers already running a developer preview of Android 13 will automatically receive an update to Beta 1, and future releases, over the air. It also can be downloaded for Pixel and run via an Android Emulator.

The Android team is currently soliciting feedback from early adopters on features and changes made to the OS during this period.

Image: Google

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