14
Nov
1

Well, guys and gals, it's finally here: Multiple Users Accounts has made its debut on Android 4.2 tablets. I got the OTA update on my Nexus 10 review unit a couple nights ago, and as promised, I immediately dove right in to see how this fancy new feature works. The Nexus 7 also got this feature with its 4.2 update, which became available early yesterday morning. Now that I've had some time to mess with it on both devices, let's take a look at exactly what it's all about!

Screenshot_2012-11-12-22-07-46

First off, I want to say: this feature works exactly how I imagined it would. It's extremely intuitive and easy to use, which makes it perfect for even a not-so-tech-savvy family to use.

Once you have the primary account set up, setting up auxiliary accounts is a breeze: simply head into the settings menu and select the new Users category. This is basically the control center for all user accounts. Whoever sets the tablet up on its initial run becomes the primary admin of the group, and the only one who can edit, change, or delete other users.

To add a new user just tap the "Add User" button at the top. From there, it'll give a bit a brief heads-up that the new user needs to be present so they can go through the set up process on their own. As soon as you hit "Set up now," it heads back out to the lockscreen so the new user can sign in and configure the tablet.

Screenshot_2012-11-14-13-05-53 Screenshot_2012-11-14-13-01-03

The new user setup is exactly the same process that you go through when signing into a new device for the first time. Once the user has logged into their Google account, they're presented with a completely stock homescreen and startup tutorial - exactly like setting up a new device. Everything about the new user account is just like that of a brand new device; none of the other users' information is shared across accounts. Apps are independent of the accounts, as are pictures in the gallery and other stored data. From what I can tell, it actually creates virtual sandboxes for each users' storage partition, keeping all content separated.

Screenshot_2012-11-14-13-01-03 Screenshot_2012-11-14-13-07-14 Screenshot_2012-11-14-13-07-24

Switching accounts is a pretty simple process - if one user is logged in, just pull down the quick setting shade and tap the user icon. This will immediately kick you back out to the lockscreen, where other user icons are displayed at the bottom of the screen. Tapping the icon changes the user, though it takes about 3-5 seconds to transition from one lockscreen to the next (yes, each user has their own lockscreen).

The system actually handles rooted systems pretty interestingly: root access is only available for the primary account. I was prompted to grant SuperUser access to SuperSU on the secondary account, but the app just continuously FC'ed, eventually locking the system up. After a reboot everything seemed to be all clear, though the secondary account had no root privileges at all. SuperSU responded with an error stating that it doesn't yet support multiple user accounts. Not sure how this will change in the future, but it's definitely intriguing - and something to consider - for the time being.

Screenshot_2012-11-14-13-16-06

This one has been a long time coming, and now that it's actually here, I think Google did a fantastic job implementing it. Creating individual sandboxes for each user is brilliant, that way everyone can have their own unique experience. Of course, with this, the only think you'll need to worry about now is storage space.

Feel free to drop any questions in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • John O’Connor

    Hit the nail on the head with the only major flaw here: Storage Space.

    Come on now Google, it isn't that hard to place more storage in your devices.

    • Saauron

      Following the pattern, who knows - 64gb Nexus 10 in January?

    • digi_owl

      SD cards, oh wait...

    • http://twitter.com/alexeiw123 Alexei Watson

      sd cards are old hat, but it's 2012, I would expect 64GB as a minimum, 128GB as an option. My nokia N97 (PoS) had 32GB of storage, and that was in 2009.

  • frohman

    How are apps handled? If User 1 installs an app, is it immediately visible to User 2? If not, if User 2 then installs the same app, is the APK shared across accounts (ie, User 1 updates the APK using the Play Store, User 2 is also updated), or is the APK installed a second time on the device?

    I heard news that it would behave like the former prior to the final 4.2 release, but Ars Technica described it as the latter in an article today and your article did not cover this topic.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      When you install an app that already exists on another account, it doesn't re-download the app, but rather pulls it from the other account, and the app data is still unique to each account.

      Not sure how it handles app updates yet.

      • http://twitter.com/navjotbatra Navjot

        I've bought a lot of apps on my account, does this mean my brother won't be able to access these apps from his account without repurchasing them?

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

          Exactly.

          • moelsen8

            wait seriously? damn. my wife and i share all the apps i buy (she has my google account logged into her phone).. and i use this one account across all my devices. so going forward, even though i'm on the tablet, if another user uses it with their account, they can't access my purchased apps?

            now that i talked through it, i'm guessing if their user account has me logged in (my google account), all should be well, right? i'm confused.

          • Saauron

            Well, if you trust your wife with your google account, you can add it as a secondary google account for the other user. Then you can download apps you've bought in that userspace. For non-DRM'd apps, you can then remove the account, and the apps will continue to work, though updates would be a problem.

          • moelsen8

            yeah that's what i'm doing now. my android account isn't my personal gmail account or anything like that. for some reason, when i got my OG Droid i decided to open a new gmail account. looking back, i'm kind of glad i did that because then i just use this account for android now and don't mind having it logged in to whatever device. just kind of freaked out for a second there that this setup wouldn't work with multiple users, but i don't see why it wouldn't.

          • digi_owl

            Not surprised really. I think companies like Microsoft have in the part looked thru their fingers regarding multiple home users of a single license simply because enforcing a pr seat license would be virtually impossible.

            With online stores this becomes much simpler, as we can see with how various game developers have reported piracy numbers by noticing the difference between score board reports and paying customers.

            I guess that as 4.2 makes its way onto more and more devices, Google will roll out the possibility for developers to make package deals via Play.

          • http://twitter.com/alexeiw123 Alexei Watson

            yeah, you should still be able to log into your account as well under her log in

        • bytewise

          As long as you add your google account as secondary account the apps should be available. This is why I have been making all app purchases through a separate gmail account. This account does not have any personal emails so I don't think twice adding it as a secondary account to my devices. So I am now able to access all paid apps from - my phone / tablet, my wife's phone, my TV(via HDMI output from MK808 Android mini PC)

      • joebe

        This is not true in my experience. I wanted to create an account for my son, and pull all the games he plays from my account to his. After finding no easy way to do this, I got the share apps app, which just send links to the play store via email. Instead of just pulling it from the main account, it requires you to download it AGAIN. In addition, the apps that I bought require me to pay again. Stupid and frustrating.. Please let me know if I'm missing something here.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tim.glaser Tim Glaser

    I would really have liked if when you installed the same app on a device for two different users, it can share the app data, won't this mean a lot of unneeded redundancy for storage?

    • http://halljake.com Jake Hall

      Offering an option would really be ideal.

      However, I think for most use cases users would want their data separate. I'd like for my various logins, game high scores/level progression, etc. to be unique to my profile...

  • RedPandaAlex

    How do paid apps work? If I have a paid app on my account, will my girlfriend have to buy it with her account to use it on my device?

    Is there an option for a guest account for, say, if you just wanted to let someone use the browser?

    Do you have any way to see or manage how much storage other users are taking up? Does setting up another user seem to take up any storage space beyond things the user downloads?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Paid apps are still tied to the original account, regardless, so she'll have to re-buy the app.

      For a guest account, you could just create a guest account without signing into an email address - the browser is still usable that way.

      Right now, there doesn't appear to be a way to manage other users' data partitions.

      • sebastien chedal-bornu

        so actually i use my old moto defy to let my son play ton games angry brids reckless racing etc, and on the N7 i plan to buy i won't be able to use a kind of child account (so he won't have acces to my mails etc but have acces to the games i bought for both) that's too bad....
        even microsoft did it for windows phone 8

  • kenjab

    Played around with this on my wife's Nexus 7 last night. It appears that it doesn't re-download apps if the primary user already has it installed, so that should save some space if all users use many of the same apps.

    The only question I have is this: can secondary users put a picture for their accounts like the primary user? If so, how?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      It pulls the user image from G+.

    • Dirk Jäckel

      It worked once for me (now settings crashes): Login as the secondary user. Go to -> Settings -> Users -> KLick on the empty user icon -> Take a photo

  • Davy Jones

    All right, I will start the questions. Can a secondary user do a factory reset? Format USB (I suppose on the Nexus 10 it would have to be with USB OTG)? How much control do they have? Can the primary user limit anything (e.g. data usage)?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Only the device admin can perform a factory reset.

      So far as I can tell, there's no way to limit what other users can do, unfortunately.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ciepluch Dave Ciepluch

    Here is to the countdown until it is ported to phones....

    • http://www.facebook.com/rmourar Ricardo Moura Rocha

      I'm sure it will be ported, but I don't really see the point in it... Sharing a tablet is something relatively normal in a family environment, but I just don't see it happening with a phone...
      I'm all for options and choices, but this time I just don't see the point... :?

      • Roberto

        What about using the multiples accounts feature in a phone for "guest mode"? For example, a friend needs to make a phone call, because his phone has no battery or for another reason... or needs to google something... or whatever. You could just switch users and hand him the phone and be confident that he cannot access none of you private messages, photos, etc. Wouldn't that be cool?

        • firethorn

          That would be pretty neat. But in that case a dedicated guest mode would be much more sensible than a full new user account IMO.
          Sure, you could make a dummy Google account to create your own guest login etc. but I'd quite like to see something of an "instant guest mode" instead.

          • Sorian

            The new user doesn't have to be linked to a Google account, not that I really played that much with multi users.

            I have seen enough people handing their phones to their children to know having a separate account can help, especially if the second account can be locked out of the phone app.

          • firethorn

            Good point. I was thinking link a Google account so the guest can download and use free apps. But yeah, for the usual "can I use your phone to make a call" or a quick look at Google Maps etc. that wouldn't even be necessary.

        • levikus

          Add to that the issue of incoming texts and calls, full muti-user support doesn't really seam practical. But some sort of guest account could definitely be handy. (win8 has a guest account for phones instead of full multi user that it's tablets have.)

          • On a Clear Day

            The I have a friend's daughter who uses my phone to watch cartoons. Being able to switch to a secure "account" for her definitely is a plus being able to let someone use the phone for a call. Excellent addition.

          • Fatass

            Fuck you

  • DeadSOL

    This is fantastic!!! I'm glad they've done it correctly! :D

    Storage should NOT be a problem! The one who bought the tablet needs to keep in mind that they are sharing the limited space between users. If they don't want to share, they shouldn't create too many accounts!

    Are the games and apps shared across users, by the way?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      No.

      • Sky

        They are indeed not automatically shared. But in my understanding if one user installs an app that another user on the same devices has already set up, the system will simply link to the already existing apk file. I.e., it doesn't cost any additional storage space.

        • Cristiano Nuzzo

          how can you enable an app to be used by another user?

  • Platting

    How does it handle notifications across different users?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Each user gets their own notifications. That's it.

      • RedPandaAlex

        So if you're not logged into your accounts, your notifications don't come up, right?

        • https://twitter.com/YannDinendal Yann Dìnendal

          right.

  • jazzruby

    Sweet, just got my N7 32GB yesterday and fastboot flashed the 4.2 image and saw the 'Users' settings. I was wondering how they were gonna handle su access. I'll be diving in here in a little while as I'm curious about all this.

    note: misspelling - only think you'll need to worry about now is storage space

  • http://twitter.com/SportsAndTV Brian Pearcy

    They really should have a guest account that you can hide or not let a visitor access. You could share you pics, music, and what ever else you wanted but not give them access to email and other important stuff.

  • Souvik Kar

    It would be nice to have a shared folder for documents, photos, etc that can be shared between users

    • moelsen8

      except that then you start venturing into "file manager" territory.. something google's made it very clear they're against (think SD cards). be nice if the manufacturers would do it, though.

    • Elias

      For now you could set up one dropbox account for all users

    • Mike C.

      I would really like this too. If everyone of my kids is supposed to have gigabytes of pictures, music and movies, then I will need much more space than 32GB.

  • infogulch

    Android < 4.2 allowed a single user to sign into multiple google accounts, is that still available? Is it different?

    If so, what happens if you try to sign in with the device admin's google account on another user (perhaps as a secondary sign in)? My thinking is to turn off all syncing on the account just so the second user can get the first user's paid apps. E.g.:

    Admin: [email protected] (sync on)
    Other: [email protected] (sync on) + [email protected](sync off)

    • moelsen8

      i was freaking out for a second there about this too, but i don't see how they could do away with this. i have 3 gmail addresses that i use, and i'm sure i'm not alone. they'd have to allow for this, and along with it, the market purchases.

      • BlueRaja

        Gmail supports reading and authoring email for multiple accounts, even
        without logging into multiple accounts on your phone/browser.

        Just
        set up settings-->forwarding in your secondary accounts, and
        settings-->accounts-->"Send mail as" in your primary account.

    • marcusmaximus04

      That's still available and works the same way.

  • De-Mento

    I wonder if you use Titanium backup or another method to integrate an app to the ROM would it appear on the secondary account.
    and would the secondary account be able to use it with separate data.
    It would be nice if someone here can test it out.

    thank you.

    • infogulch

      I'm guessing that a bunch of root apps like Titanium will need to be retooled to work with multiple users.

      • De-Mento

        what i mean is that most likely system apps will be available across profiles.

        • firethorn

          It looks indeed like system apps are automatically there for every user (which makes sense as for all intents and purposes they are considered part of the ROM) whereas non-system apps need to be installed individually for every user space.

    • Bill Blandford

      This should work in theory, but I tested this out but it's not a viable workaround for most. The problem is that the ROM partition is not extendable unless you jump through a bunch of hacker hoops to do so. So if you want to put Angry Birds Star Wars where your kids can get to it by default, then you're probably SOL because there's not enough free space in ROM partition to push it into ROM using TiBackup.

      I also tested whether I could move apps on my 4.2 Xoom to External SD card from Titanium Backup and was unsuccessful.

    • Bill Blandford

      Here's a workaround that might be useful for giving multiple users access to free and non-DRM paid apps on devices that have an External SD Card /sdcard1.

      User 1 Install ES File Explorer
      Go to "ES FIle Explorer/App Manager" interface.
      Select all apps and Backup all apps
      In ES File explorer navigate to ~/backups/apps and select all and COPY
      ES File Explorer>Settings>Root Settings>Up To Root enabled
      Navigate up to root and go to storage/sdcard1
      Make new folder "APK" or whatever you want to call it
      Paste into that folder

      User 2 login and Install ES File Explorer from Play Store
      ES File Explorer>Settings>Root Settings>Up To Root enabled

      Navigate to storage/sdcard1/APK
      Start installing apps by opening every apk you like

  • Dirk Jäckel

    There is a way to get your paid apps working in a secondary User account without them having access to your Google account.

    1. Login as secondary user
    2. Add the google account that bought apps
    3. Download and install bought apps
    4. Remove your google account

    The apps are still there and work AFAICT. I do not know where they put their backups. Might be in your Google account. You should check that before letting anyone access those app in the secondary account.

  • DeadSOL

    Cameron, I know this is well off topic but you guys at AP should really read this:

    http://www.cyanogenmod.org/blog/psa-transition-to-cyanogenmod-org

  • http://www.facebook.com/nyczducky Albert Kim

    Google Talk doesn't work with multiuser support. Says only the primary user can use it.

    • http://twitter.com/navjotbatra Navjot

      they will probably update it soon.

      • Steven Schoen

        I'm not so sure, it looks more like they want to phase it out and replace it with Google+ Messenger. Which makes sense to me, considering Messenger is just Talk with group video chat.

  • Stefan Eckhardt

    I am glad I have been buying all my apps through a seperate family account. That was done with two seperate smartphones in mind (plus more eventually when my kids are grown up enough to get one themselves), but it becomes even more usefull with multi-user.

    If you are upset with the way it works: please mind that nothing is taken away from your functionality! You could just have them use your profile for accessing these apps bought with you primary account and it would work just like there was no multi-user.

  • Bob The Teacher

    Multiple users would be great for an educational setting, especially in a Google Apps school. However, it looks like each time a student wanted to use a tablet they'd need to add their account, unless they used the same tablet. Bummer.

    Maybe some day in the future an Android tablet will work just like a networked Windows machine...one can dream...

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Torsten-Pihl/784367178 Torsten Pihl

    Hi, the new user won't set up. It hangs and reboots. I reset to factory default and it still can't set up any new user. Any work around? Thanks.

  • Omri Kehat

    Is it possible to transfer apps from main user to other user? For example games

  • ritu.rathore6

    Google play developer account available in stock if needed pm on sky pe : ritu.rathore6
    our price $55 for simple and $65 for customize

  • debeli747

    Hy. Multiple users are great. But how can I as owner instal apss and digital certificates to another user?

  • Miguel Dias

    What about the accounts of the secondary user? Are they online or offline while the primary user is active? Can the secondary user get a call in Skype, for example?

  • Fatass

    Nerd

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