26
Jul
multiuserthumb

Ever since its inception in Android 4.2, end-users have wondered why the multi-user function has been restricted to tablets. While switching between profiles desktop-style certainly makes the most sense on tablets, there's no technical reason why it couldn't be enabled for phones as well. Yesterday an official Android engineer took to Reddit to explain the reasoning behind the limitation.

multi

"...it is not at all clear how it should work on a phone, specifically with respect to SMS and phone calls," writes Dan Morrill, Google Engineer and a regular on the popular /r/Android subreddit. "Suppose you have device sharing enabled and then a call comes in. Who gets it? Do you punch through to the current user? Only the owner gets it? If only the owner can answer, does it ring for the second user? Is it worse to annoy the current user with a ringing phone they can't answer, or worse for dad to miss a call from his boss because Junior was playing Angry Birds?"

Morrill cites user research as Google's primary reason for leaving multi-user off of post-4.2 phone builds. Apparently testers responded negatively to the idea of sharing phones, which are understandably more personal than tablets. (When's the last time you left the house without your trusty Android phone?) Even so, a few use cases like long-term device loans could benefit from the feature, especially now that Android 4.3 has introduced more robust controls

Morrill says that Google may revisit the idea of multi-user on phones, if only for some very targeted use cases. "Something like a 'lockdown mode' so Junior can play Angry Birds with his own scores might make sense," he writes, though he makes it clear that the full sharing option currently seen on tablets is likely to be enabled in AOSP. In the meantime, advanced users can try mods or custom ROMs, and there's nothing stopping manufacturers from enabling the feature on their customized software.

Source: Reddit

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • JimmyHACK

    I guess this makes sense. I always looked at it as your phone is a personal device as to where most tablets are community devices.

    • ItlnStln

      I agree. I'm not too sure what the use case for multi-user is on a phone. Not that there isn't one, but it doesn't seem obvious to me.

      • N8

        I carry a personal phone for work and am paid a stipend. Being able to log into a less-secure account for my personal stuff and a more-secure account for my business stuff would be absolutely brilliant. I'd rather not mix the two, but I'd REALLY rather not carry two devices.

        • bmaz

          The solution you are looking for is a work/personal profile similar to BlackBerry Balance, it's not a multi-user case seeing as their is still only one user.

          • schale01

            I would like to see proper profile support on android however using a work and personal user is an acceptable work around for those that want to keep work separate from personal.

          • didibus

            Except it needs to work exactly the same. It's a different name for the same thing. At the phone level, the exact same thing needs to happen. So at least activate it and replace all instance of User with Profile, if you wanted.

            And, to prove how similar they are, you still need to find a solution to the Phone and SMS case. If I'm in "Play" profile, do they let SMS from contacts in my "Work" profile only go through? Do I want to be disturbed by a "Work" call, when on my "Play" account?

            Profiles and Users are the same things, just the way you word it. Call a user "Work", and another "Play", and you have profiles. Call one "Jane" and one "David" and you have accounts. Now you could call one "Jane Play" and one "Jane Work", and you'd be able to mix the two. The user / profile thing is only a UI problem. How do you want to scope it, should profiles be a child of user accounts, or do you want to flatten the hierarchy.

          • bmaz

            I disagree, profiles and multi-user support are not the same thing, they might have similarities but it's not the same concept.
            Re-read the article to see the challenges with setting up muti-user account on a phone, and apply those circumstances to profiles, it's not the same thing at all, in the context of profiles they are all going to the same authorized user. Whether you want to answer a Work call/SMS while in your Play profile is entirely up to you.

          • didibus

            I do believe the ideal is to separate those things, because I would like to have per user account profiles. But like I mentioned in my comment above, you do get the same exact challenges with profiles, than you do with users. Do you want to receive work calls on your play profile? Or receive distracting play sms on your work profile?

          • Deepak

            sms can be preserved by sending them to a vault u enter the pin to read them

        • V

          Yes. And it would make even more sense on a 2-SIM card phone, one of which is personal and the other is your work phone. Can´t get any smarter than that.

      • Justin Proctor

        I recently upgraded to an HTC One and let my two children use my Evo 3D as a mini-tablet through Wi-Fi. It would be nice to have this ability for them. I'll have to see if my rom offers that option, or maybe switch to a new one.

      • Hal Motley

        I guess if you let a friend or your child play with certain apps on your smartphone frequently, it might make sense to set accounts.

        Also as mentioned by N8, to separate work and home with the BYOD devices.

    • anywherehome

      Phone has only the one owner, so there is no reason to cancel the feature..... If I lend my phone it doesn't matter if someone calls..... I expect that could happen

      Just put it there and let us decide, thank you Google

      • panama

        agree with you.
        google should not dictate multi-user feature is bad for phone.
        just give us that feature and let user decide what's good for them.

    • frederick

      sounds like Apple to me.
      "We know what's best for you, so we didn't enable that feature on phone".

      yeah right, what's happened to FREEDOM & CHOICE that's highly touted on Android ?

      you can use settings to Enable or Disable them, what's so hard with that ?

      worst is, some "smart" people here think that they know the best.
      "you need work/personal profile on that, no need for multi-user". doh.

      remember, "Never assume what's good for you always good for others".

      TL;DR just give us that feature and let user decide what's best for them.

      • loudambiance

        In all of your answer, you failed to say how it should work.... Should the phone call/text come through to the second user? Should it alert the second user and require the first user to login, or should it just silently go to vm? All of your ranting you said absolutely nothing...

        • pfmiller

          For text it's obvious how it should work, just go to the primary account and the notification shouldn't be any different than from any other notification they receive.

          For phone it's not as obvious but I think it should ring and anyone can answer, just like how a locked Android phone currently works.

        • http://wave-france.blogspot.com Supercopter

          Letting children or friends playing with your phone already happens.

          What if you receive a phone call while they play? They just try to reach you quick enough while it still rings, or give you back the device with a missed call.

          The situation already exists and I don't see any of the benefits of multi-user making it harder to cope with.

        • Maani

          Is it REALLY that hard to find a solution? If Admin user is using phone then everything is normal. If guest user is using phone then the Admin can toggle whether he wants the guest to be able to receive calls or for it to just pop up with a notification. This isn't rocket science.

    • Deepak

      remeber call can be recieved even when ur phoneis locked,,'

  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com/ Silver Fang

    Maybe because phones are typically owned and used by a single person? Multiuser makes sense for computers and tablets, not for phones.

    • didibus

      Trust me, if you had the feature, you'd be using it.

  • Guest

    Some things missing from Galaxy Nexus 4.0 update :

    Bluetooth Low Energy (Needs Bluetooth 4.0 and gnex have Bluetooth 3.0)
    Open GL ES 3.0 (Hardware doesn't support it)
    Old 3.0.72 Kernel (Don't know reason)

  • Ashutos Don Jain

    Some things missing from Galaxy Nexus 4.3 update :

    Bluetooth Low Energy (Needs Bluetooth 4.0 and gnex have Bluetooth 3.0)
    Open GL ES 3.0 (Hardware doesn't support it)
    Old 3.0.72 Kernel (Don't know reason)

  • Carl

    I would use it for work and home accounts. There isn't a good solution (that I've found) to completely turn off all my work stuff after hours beyond carrying a second device.

  • jaydon

    Well can they at least add restricted mode in some way for kids? I'd like better parental controls built into Android, especially for the browser.

    • Ryan Smith

      It's not Google job to do your job as a parent and watch over your kids.

      There I said it.

      Maybe you should watch what your kids are going to.

      • jaydon

        How, if I give the kid the phone with him, as his own? I won't be there 24/7 (school, etc).

        • Ryan Smith

          If you can't trust your kid with the phone then don't give him one in the first place.

          Jesus, no offense but it's parents like you that drive me up a wall, you want someone else to deal with the hardships of parenting for you. You had the kid, you take care of him. Yes it's harder now than ever to watch kids especially with the rise on technology but that's your damn job. If you're afraid of your kid accessing bad websites then you tell him or her not to go, or you monitor where they go. If you can't do that and it's too much for you then don't have kids.

          I'm sorry but it is unacceptable for you to sit here and hope Google does something in order for you to continue to be a mediocre parent and let your phone be your kids' babysitter and not you do your damn job and watch over them.

          /rant

  • Christopher Lee

    A sort of "sandbox" mode might work better for a phone, where you can have an individual app running in a different profile.

  • illithid

    I don't really need multi user for my phone, but just the parental control part is a good idea. I don't want my nephew to tamper with my apps other than the games I installed for him.
    Also, I often receive gibberish emails and messages from my friends claiming that their kids accidentally use it, so an app restriction rule will be useful.

  • gladgura

    Multi-User support would be great for Dual SIM phones.

    • Christopher Lee

      And that solves the problems above how, exactly? You still have to figure out how to map incoming transmissions from one user to the other in a way that won't annoy the living bajeezus out of the logged-in user.

      • gladgura

        I never said I did the R&D on this. All I was saying that this may be a starting point. Now since you mention it, Android could use SIM card A while logged in to User A. Upon logging in to User B SIM card A will be dismissed. As I said I have not done the R&D on this. My guess neither have you.

        • Christopher Lee

          What's that phrase again? One doesn't have to be a chef to criticize the soup? But this isn't a question of formal R&D, it's a pretty basic aspect of UI/UX design and QA.

          Someone's gotten up on a high horse because they didn't think things through. In any event, that solution still leaves you with the problem (albeit smaller) of what to do with the "inactive" SIM. Do you just flat out drop your network connection? Are all incoming transmissions suppressed until user A is logged in again?

          The whole point of the engineer's post was finding the answers to those questions is hard, so it's hardly surprising that they haven't acted much on it yet.

          • gladgura

            Sounds like you already have this all figured out. oh wait you said "A sort of "sandbox" mode might work better for a phone, where you can have an individual app running in a different profile." sounds just like a starting point to me.

          • Christopher Lee

            The lack of relevance between your first statement and the last is astounding. The gap between both and reality is even more so.

            Comment sections are great places to spitball ideas. But if you can't handle criticism (which apparently, you're having a lot of trouble with), then it's better not to get involved. I don't think multiuser support as it's currently implemented is useful on a phone, but I can see avenues for something similar.

            Problem, bro?

  • Michael Pahl

    multi user on company phones where someone is on call one week and another person on call the next week

  • http://k3rnel.net Juan Rodriguez

    The one reason I'd set up a secondary account on my phone is as a "Guest Profile" where I can let someone borrow my phone and use the browser, some specific app or even the camera but not go through my messages, pictures, media, facebook, call log or browser history

  • http://jamieellis.co.cc/ Jamie Ellis

    Multi User on Phone should be an optional "Settings" for Phone, Tablet or "Phablet hybrid" choice of when to enable it if you want it.

    Perhaps something like an Multi User Wizard with a couple of toggles.
    It could even be additional to 'Restricted Profiles"
    e.g. "Do you want all/x users to access: SMS [toggle] MMS [toggle] Calls [toggle]"

    HTC and Samsung preload devices with enough 'software' which you may or not actually use!

  • Steven Nutt

    As I see it there are 3 use cases:

    1) Parent/Child or Spouse for specific apps or general use when at home.
    2) Work/Home profiles
    3) Guest mode

    In all the above cases would expect the phone owner to be around and therefore calls should come through as normal, possibly there should be an option to mute messages...

    • Christopher Lee

      But what does "come through as normal" mean? Should the logged-in user see the standard "phone ringing" screen? If so, then what's stopping them from answering a call not meant for them? Should the phone ringing screen have some sort of a PIN unlock (identical to the protection you have on your user account) to answer? Should you have to switch back into your user profile before answer (by which point the other party might have hung up)?

      With the exception of the last question, these aren't really easy answers.

      • Sir_Brizz

        Sounds like a good use case for several options :p I think for most people who let their kids use their phone to play games and crap, they still want to know when texts and calls come in. I think the much more limited use case is for that stuff to be disabled when someone else is using the device.

        • Christopher Lee

          Granted, but the question remains as to how you handle that stuff. It's not for a lack of uses per se, but with texts and calls being among the most personal of activities that many users conduct on their phone, just disabling it isn't necessarily the best option.

          For example (extreme, of course, but bear with me), if I hand my friend my phone so she can look something up, and I get a call from my parents that someone I know is in the hospital, I think I'd like to know that call is coming in and not have it simply be disabled. If only so my friend can say "hey, your parents are calling."

          • Sir_Brizz

            I'm not saying I have the right answers, I just think there is a potential market for that functionality that could be solved with several options and multi-user. Notifications could be sent to the currently logged in user that a text message was received but hiding the text if they weren't allowed to see text messages.

            Call notifications could have options to turn them on or off per user. I think options could solve for most of the potential problems caused by opening up multi user more.

          • Christopher Lee

            Not saying you do. Just tossing things out there because it's interesting.

            I think the problem really keeps circling down to the fact that phones are much more personal devices. Sometimes, even knowing that a text message has come in could be more information than you want to share. But there's also the risk or missing an important message in that situation.

            Basically, it's a huge can of worms, so I can agree with Google's decision to let it be for now.

          • Sir_Brizz

            A text message at all? I think if they had options to limit how much information notifications outside of the logged in profile could see, it would help a lot. Seeing "A new Text Message arrived" and clicking on that notification requires switching to the primary profile doesn't seem like giving too much information.

            Plus, there is nothing stopping people who need totally secure devices from not using the feature and not sharing their device. I think the most common use case for the feature anyway, even on tablets, is parents with their young children.

          • https://www.facebook.com/MusicalWolf Todd Wolf

            This. You hit it right on the head. Most stock firmwares come with an option for limited access text and call notifications in their Messaging app out under Security in the Settings app. Forcing an enablement of these options when not logged in as the primary user seems easily feasible. Plus, the notifications access is supposed to get a huge overhaul in Android 5.0, which would ideally make control of which notifications would be displayed securely or which users were allowed to see various notification types a further set of options in the either Multi-User or Security menus.

          • didibus

            The truth is, whatever way they do it would have worked as long as the user is aware of the way it works.

            For me, the best use case for Multi-User on phones is this:

            1) The non-owner users get notified that the Owner received an SMS, but they do not know from whom or what the content of it is. They can not send SMS.

            2) Phone calls go through for all Users, interrupting them as normal. Non-Owner can not make phone calls. If Owner account has a lock screen, the lock pattern or pin or face recognition is required to answer the call.

            And I'd also would like for them to have a "Profile" mode, which works like so:

            1) User Accounts can be marked as "Profile". This type of account is for separation of concerns. To keep your Work contact list, apps, etc. separate from your personal contacts, apps, pictures, etc.

            2) A Profiled user account can make Calls and send SMS as well as Receive calls and SMS.

            Finally, each account should have a Shared Bucket where you can add stuff to be shared between accounts. So you can add a contact in the bucket, that would make it available on all Accounts. Non-Owner accounts can call, sms, and answer calls and sms from Shared Contacts that were added by the Owner in the bucket. You can also use the Shared Bucket to make pictures, videos, apps, etc. available for all accounts.

          • Steven Nutt

            That's what I meant by "As normal".

            If my child is using my phone to play games, then the call should come through with the standard call screen, I'll be around and will hear it ring so can pick it up.
            In Home/Work mode it is my phone, so all it needs to do is say which profile it is come through from (which mine already does for SIP calls).
            In Guest mode - this is the one case where maybe you'd actually want to it show the lock screen (with pin/...) rather than a standard call screen, but the call should still interrupt whatever the Guest is doing.

  • EJ_Su

    There's actually good use for having multi-user function in a phone.

    In a corporate environment, a lot of employees, at where I work, for example, are forced to carry a second phone for work, and all of them prefer to use their own phone instead. I can see if the feature is being implemented in the phone OS, it would solve some of the problems that we are facing in our company.

    • bmaz

      The solution you are looking for is a work/personal profile similar to BlackBerry Balance, it's not a multi-user case.

      • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

        It's the same physical user, but two user accounts nonetheless.

    • Christopher Lee

      I'm curious, has your company found that MDM/BYOD policies don't work for you?

      • EJ_Su

        We didn't actually have a need for extra security, we simply wanted to separate personal and work use.

        • Christopher Lee

          Fair enough!

        • Pradeep Viswanathan R

          Your company's IT department will not accept it even if there is a separate work & play profiles. Corporates trust blackberry so it does not matter even if bb10 has this feature or not.

  • Chris

    He has very valid points. I see no issue with getting your phone from your kid if a call comes in.

  • brkshr

    Thanks for clarifying that! Definitely makes sense.

  • Pengwn

    If anything, I would like the multi-user functionality on my phone.. just not in the typical sense. I just want the ability to switch between a home and work account. When I'm at work, I would like the layout to change and show work related material and vice versa for home. I know I could complete this now by setting up the different layouts with multiple launchers and use a NFC tag to switch depending on my location. The only problem is, I don't want to leave action launcher lol.

  • Sarath Chandra Gullapalli

    I think most of the people who want Profiles on phones just want to keep their apps restricted and guarded from kids or anyone else who want to play or just simply look at the phone. So, a guest profile with the following would be good-
    1. No access to any leader-board
    2. No notification for msgs or password protection for the Messaging app.
    3. Allowing incoming phone call, even on guest mode (because we don't want to miss any call- this is a limitation for the restricted guest) and blocking outgoing calls (because we don't want kids to make unnecessary calls)

    Above all, I'm surprised that a Google Engineer did not feel that such problems are easily solved by allowing the user to configure it and not give a fixed option.

    • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

      I'd love to have this on multi-user corporate phones like those that are shared among us for on-calls.

  • cowbutt

    In GSM models, tie the user profile to the installed SIM.

  • OliverRC

    Honestly I cannot understand how people couldn't figure this out themselves.
    Phones are personal devices used by a single user, tablets often are communal and shared among any users.
    It's common sense really.

  • Babs Oyed

    The reasoning to leave it out is not really valid.

    It can be there and we can decide what we want the guest to have access to.

    • Chris

      or just let them use the phone for that quick 90 second phone call. Its not like you are gonna walk away or let a total stranger use your phone.

  • Ryan Stewart

    There are so many things I would prefer Google spend their time improving in Android instead of perfecting a feature that only a miniscule number of users will ever care about.

    Like said, since the tablet is something that can be shared about, multi-user makes sense and is awesome. There really aren't many scenarios where you are going to go without your phone to loan it to someone.

    • Chris

      Agreed. If you are gonna let someone borrow your phone chances are

      1. You know them.
      2. You would be right there next to them as they use it
      3. Why the fuck are you having sensitive information on your phone?

  • Armus

    Anything they can turn off, we can turn back on. If you want this crap feature, just wait. A dev will do it.

  • http://www.ScienceProUSA.com SciencePro

    I feel like a simple 'Guest mode' for when someone needs to borrow your phone for a quick call or web search.

    Am I crazy or has this been available on Android before? Either through custom ROMs or OEM customization?

    • Benjamin Pavel

      Hmm Guest mode...i like your idea and hope someone from AOSP team sees this. :)

    • Chris

      seems like a lot of work. chances are you trust the person you are letting borrow you phone. so theres nop need for a silly guest account

    • Richard Markert

      If I don't trust somebody enough and swap to a "Guest" account to let somebody use my phone, then I don't trust that person enough to use my phone, period.

      Being able to quickly lock out things like the Play store, SMS or the Dialer would be FAR more useful and usable than a "Guest" account.

  • Floss

    ""Something like a 'lockdown mode' so Junior can play Angry Birds with his own scores might make sense"

    FFS This is all ANYONE ever wanted in the first place, and the only thing you can't do with it!

  • Hal Motley

    I thought it was a Nokia patent, but it's good to see its an issue that arose from user testing rather than the result of a legal obstacle. I am sure we might see it come to custom ROMs perhaps?

  • didibus

    Worst reason ever. If users responded negatively to multi-user phone, they would simply never create a second account.

    What about, the much more useful, create multiple users for the same owner, which makes users into profiles. So you can have a "work" user, a "play" user, etc.

    • Chris

      "Ever" ? Really?

      • didibus

        Disappointing might be a better word for it. Here I thought Google didn't do it because of a Nokia patent, when in fact, they just didn't do it yet.

  • Chris

    This is pretty funny.

    "I took these shots while on vacation in hawaii"

    "cool. Can I see....."

    "sure, let me log out and log in guest mode. Sure we've known eachother for 30 years but I still don't trust you looking at my pictures of my vacation. You might access something that I do not have"

  • Chris

    Also I think people seem to want it because its another "cool feature" that in reality they won't use...

    comments speak for themselves

  • Rob Mahon

    I can see eventually it being multi users/multi device. If you're near a GoogleTV, use that. If you're using your phone, use that. If you're at your computer, use that. In a corporate environment, pick up a device, sign in, it's 'yours' until you log off/log in elsewhere, with the backend servers routing accordingly, depending on what the capabilities of the device are.

  • Elias

    "...it is not at all clear how it should work on a phone, specifically with respect to SMS and phone calls (...) Suppose you have device sharing enabled and then a call comes in. Who gets it? Do you punch through to the current user? Only the owner gets it? If only the owner can answer, does it ring for the second user? Is it worse to annoy the current user with a ringing phone they can't answer, or worse for dad to miss a call from his boss because Junior was playing Angry Birds?"

    Am I the only one to think this reason was incredibly stupid? Just put all those options in the screen for user profile settings. Makes everybody happy.
    Seeing that currently you can answer calls on a phone even if it's locked, the most obvious solution would be to still prioritize the phone function of a phone, regardless of who's using it. But daddy could choose to only allow receiving calls, instead of making calls. Could also choose to be prompted with a lockscreen when the phone rings, so he quickly draws his unlock pattern to answer the phone. And if daddy chose to not even let the phone ring when Junior is using it, well, that's daddy's fault.

    • Deepak

      remeber anyone can recieve a call even on locked phone...

  • Jesse Cohen

    What I really want is support for titanium backup or similar options on a secondary user...

  • RAJKUMAR N

    More often people asking for the phone if you had a new model also kids demand the same. Why don't Google prevents By asking for pattern or password while creating profiles.

  • Phartat Misassa

    This is Foo sh*t!
    LOL, Na but I do want to know how to enable it on a phone, basically I am a root user and love the command line, so that being said not having a normal admin user that I can sudo with and then authenticate and run a program such as cp as root as a one shot service maybe and then be back at my prompt, it would be cool if the password was the same that was required to unlock the screen after it sleeps, basically, boot, authenticate to unlock screen (ie login), then I open term emulater and if I need to su in it should have a root password to do so.

  • mirak

    It would make sens for the Padfone when its in tablet mode.

  • innovator

    Yes, a phone is a personal device. But a single user with two or more sims might wish to keep the "data" (contacts, logs, sms, emails etc) "distinctly separate" for each sim. say sim-1 is for work and sim-2 is for private. you would not want your workplace colleagues to "ever know you" have a second sim. having a common phone log of dual sim can result in the user accidentally dialing-out or texting using the wrong sim. On the private front you would not want a nosy girl friend or angry girl friend to accidentally access your work contacts in a fit of rage and cause damage at workplace. There are many such scenarios where have two walled data area tied to a sim makes lot of sense. I might be comfortable having my family access my private contacts, but not my work contacts, where kids can accidentally dial an important person from work or client and cause nuisance.

  • http://www.mathewporter.co.uk/ Mathew Porter

    I can see why Google have not enabled this on devices due to the cons with regards to calls and texts etc. The reason for me wanting multi users accounts is for managing multiple clients social profiles on the move. If I had individual logins for each client, each with respective social accounts signed in on each account, then it would make life so much easier to switch and share whilst on the move.

  • Deepak

    Stupid reason Calls can be received even on locked phone,,,, what is wrong if another user is logged in...