Android is getting ready for multiple user switching

Android Police has discovered that Google has been adding bits and pieces of code to Android over the last year to get ready for multiple users sharing one Android device. Multi-user switching may be one of the key new features of the next Android version. Each user will have their application data and system settings saved in separate system folders.

Right now it is almost impossible for any tablet owner to share their tablet with someone else. When you log in to an application all your data gets synced and you don't have to sign in again. But when someone else wants to check their Facebook, for example, they have to either sign in in the web version, use another application or sign out the owner and sign in themselves.

The first hint to the user switching functionality was found in the lockscreen source code. A newly added method onUserChanged(int userId) will make sure that when a user switch happens the lockscreen is reloaded with the new user's specific security type. After being shown that method by one of the CyanogenMod developers, Ron Amadeo of Android Police started looking through the Android repository where he found numerous other changes that point to Google adding multi-user support.

One of the major commits to the source code was a commit titled "Plumbing in PackageManager and installd for multi-user support." done in April 2011. This commit meant that all application was no longer saved in /data/data, but instead in /data/user/0. This change is already visible on devices with recent Android versions. To retain compatibility /data/data now points to /data/user/0 (using a symlink).


(source: Android Police)

The second commit (titled "Multi-user - 1st major checkin") contained changes that hinted to a way to switch between users from the power menu, but this might be an early testing feature. Other commits included package restrictions per user, which basically means that you will be able to disable applications per-user if you don't use them. No UI work has been found so far.

Google has not announced anything about the next Android version or planned features, so it's unsure in what Android version this functionality will be made available. What we do know is that we're eagerly waiting to try it out!

Via: Tweakers.net (Dutch) (translation)
Source: Android Police

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Ambroos said,

Probably, most people don't share their phone. But I would like to have a guest account on my phone. My nephew keeps asking to play my games and I don't like giving people unrestricted access to my FB, Twitter, mail, messages, call logs, ...

Good point.

TheDisneyMagic said,
This is great to see happen, will be very useful on tablets, I am guessing Windows 8 RT supports multiple users as well?

I'd guess with RT, you'd use your @Live account to login.

TheDisneyMagic said,
This is great to see happen, will be very useful on tablets, I am guessing Windows 8 RT supports multiple users as well?

Yep, just the regular Windows user switching which works fine. If Windows RT tablets get released before the next Android version that will probably make them the first to have user switching on a tablet.

TheDisneyMagic said,
This is great to see happen, will be very useful on tablets, I am guessing Windows 8 RT supports multiple users as well?

You need to "guess" that Windows supports multiple users?

Ambroos said,

Yep, just the regular Windows user switching which works fine. If Windows RT tablets get released before the next Android version that will probably make them the first to have user switching on a tablet.
Windows XP Tablet edition?

Enron said,
Does the phone number change when you switch users?

How does the phone number suppose to change? I just can't brain this.

FarCry3r said,

How does the phone number suppose to change? I just can't brain this.

Actually there's more to it. Yeah, the SIM card isn't going to magically change so that number will stay the same, but if someone uses Google Voice there's potential there for it to know when that SIM card is in use by them or someone else and ring (or not ring) the phone accordingly.

ingramator said,
This is in response to Windows 8!

No, its a no brainer that the next gen Windows will have multi accounts. They always have. This is something Google is adding and it would make sense if multiple people use the same tab.

ingramator said,
This is in response to Windows 8!

Probably not. The first commit of multi-user code was made in April 2011.

This will be incredibly useful - it's annoying to have to kinda mother someone using a signed-in android tablet - a guest mode at the very least is needed. Does iOS have this? If not, they'll do so I guess.

This is a no-brainer, and while I think they would rather we buy a tablet for every person in a household, my life has been a lot easier since I installed a hack that already exists for Androids called SwitchMe.

Now the wife and I can share the tablet and not have to constantly login and logout of our e-mail/facebook/etc accounts.

Wow android!!! SUPERB just working on this for over a year! On something thats a intergrated part of the kernel you guys are using! And pretty much every distro has a completely seperated from eachother multi-user environment...

Windows has had multi-users since the last millenium, so does apple, unix, linux, bsd and even WinCE!

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