25
Nov
v

One of the strangest changes with regard to Android 4.4 was the apparent removal of the hidden App Ops menu. You remember this one – it was the interface that allowed you to restrict permissions on a per-app basis. Well, apparently it's still in there – Google just made it harder to find. Color Tiger, developer of Smart IR Remote has just released its new App Ops 4.3/4.4 app that pulls up the standard App Ops and can add new features with root access.

1 2

The app you get from Google Play can open App Ops on Android 4.3 and 4.4. This pretty definitively proves the feature is still present, contrary to what everyone thought when the most recent installment of Getting To Know Android went up. Getting into App Ops under Android 4.4 has also given us a look at some new permissions that can be toggled. Perhaps most interestingly, apps now list Keep Awake (wake lock) as a permission that can be altered. So you should be able to revoke this and the app won't be able to wake up your device. It's like Greenify, but built into Android. Android 4.4 also adds a media category to App Ops. There's a big commit to the Android source code that seems to confirm there are a number of new permissions supported. Here's the full list:

OP_TAKE_MEDIA_BUTTONS
OP_TAKE_AUDIO_FOCUS
OP_AUDIO_MASTER_VOLUME
OP_AUDIO_VOICE_VOLUME
OP_AUDIO_RING_VOLUME
OP_AUDIO_MEDIA_VOLUME
OP_AUDIO_ALARM_VOLUME
OP_AUDIO_NOTIFICATION_VOLUME
OP_AUDIO_BLUETOOTH_VOLUME
OP_WAKE_LOCK
OP_COARSE_LOCATION

The standard App Ops interface is fine, but Color Tiger aims to improve on things for rooted users. This app can be used to download and install what they are calling "App Ops eXtended." The goal with App Ops eXtended is to provide additional features by installing the tweaked app to the /system/app directory. Right now App Ops eXtended only adds a search option to make finding apps easier, but in the future it will include the ability to revoke certain permissions by default, Tasker integration to disable permissions based on conditions, multiple profiles, widgets, and notifications to alert you to possible issues with permissions you have revoked.

3 4

Not only does this app teach us something new about Android 4.4, it promises to really improve customization and privacy controls (for free). This is definitely something to check out. There is also a second app already in Google Play that can call up the stock App Ops interface too. Apparently Google did not hide it well enough. There are a few screens below to compare 4.4 with 4.3 (on the left) and how they show Google Play Services in App Ops.

Update: A new version of App Ops from Color Tiger is out, and it includes a pro upgrade with notifications, batch denials, and automatic blocking of certain permissions.

Screenshot_2013-11-24-23-00-43 2013-11-25 07.01.26 2013-11-25 07.01.51

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • DevliegereM

    Hell yeah, missed this actually :D Thank you AP for putting this out!

    • anywherehome

      yes....I was scared that google doesn't care about our optional privacy :)
      I can install the dangerous and intrusive Facebook app back :)

    • anywherehome

      yes, I was worried Google doesn't care about our privacy :)
      but still missing "internet access" ....there is a lot of tools uselessly asking for internet access

  • Sergiu Dogaru

    Dev here: we actually updated App Ops eXtended a few hours ago and added notifications (for showing ops denied for current foreground app), batch grant/revoke and an option to revoke by default certain permissions of your choosing (like READ CONTACTS or SEND SMS) to all newly installed apps

    • anywherehome

      great....good work!
      and what about "allow on demand"? is it possible in this state with 4.4?
      thx

      • Sergiu Dogaru

        Thanks! "allow on demand" isn't possible with the current of the AppOpsManager (which we're using), but we're always looking for workarounds!

        • sssgadget

          Please allow app hiding from drawer when app ops X is installed.

          • Tim242

            Nova Launcher

          • sssgadget

            GEL

          • Tim242

            GEL sucks. The icons are too big, and you have no customization. Nova should be the GEL.

      • corbydjk364

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    • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

      Great app. Thanks!

  • Spittie

    Seems that soon I'll not need XPrivacy anymore :)

  • Matthew Gardner

    Glorious.

  • Dev

    Sooner or later someone's gonna find a way to bring out app ops without the need of 3rd party apps.

    • Anu6is

      Even the previous implementation needed a third part app (i.e. a Launcher)
      Unless it's baked into a custom ROM...stock android has no user accessible activity available to launch app ops

  • wickets

    +Ryan Whitwam, thanks for the info and detailed explanation of what these apps do

  • sourabh sekhar

    ROM and deivce in the second last set of screenshots?

    • Mado

      Pretty sure that is just good old Galaxy Note 3.

  • Chris

    I recall there was a way to access this App Ops without the need to install an app. Anyone remember how? I don't want to install one of these apps if Android offers this natively.

    • lbrfabio

      You could add a shortcut to the activity via Nova, Apex and other apps. It's not possible anymore

    • Matthew Gardner

      This is the native implementation.
      The app offers access the the native app ops implementation (which is there, but not accessible) or a choice of an extended app ops app (for root only). If you only want the native one then choose the native version (it provides you with a choice on starting).

    • Anu6is

      The original activity from 4.3 was removed

  • Yevgeniy GadgetsCar

    Finally

  • Jason

    Brilliant! Now I can stop my goddamn screensaver hogging 3% of my battery with location requests all day (Ocean HD)... had tried blocking it with Xposed but it crashed. AppOps works beautifully...

  • Danny Holyoake

    How strange, considering Dianne Hackborn told me that this was a developer feature that was never meant to be included with 4.3.

    Just seems odd that they didn't remove it fully.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      I really don't want to put words in her mouth, but I would read into that in much the same way that we've been told ART was intended for a very limited audience (rather than what it has become). I think the point is that the average person shouldn't be messing with App Ops. But for people that really understand what they're getting into, and implicitly agree not to complain if it causes problems, then it doesn't hurt if App Ops is accessible through a back door (so to speak).

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It's baked too deeply into the OS at this point to justify an effort to remove it, so they're just hiding it, just not very well.

      • mateor

        SEAndroid is leveraging AppOps and working on EOps as well (enterprise).

    • Leif Sikorski

      During the last IO she mentioned that they're working on something like App OPS after someone from the audience asked for such a feature. I would guess that they're working for quite some time on this, but it will still take some time until it's ready to be implemented officially and used by the average user. The hardest thing to solve might be the interaction with user I guess. They need to know why something doesn't behave as expected if they play with such settings but on the other side it would be horrible if the user gets spammed by toasts or notifications.

  • Anu6is

    I'm not sure why everyone thought it was removed. I believe the activity that was being used to launch it in 4.3 was removed. The rest of the code is still there. It's already been exposed by Paranoid Android (according to their Git - https://github.com/AOSPA/android_packages_apps_Settings/commit/54ad5ab6acc9c75a48381dcaf08e0e9db237da71)
    Currently running this implementation on my device

  • xnifex

    Sweet now I can update to 4.4

  • http://nrajesh.com Rajesh

    Can someone tell how this is better than XPrivacy (if so)? XPrivacy allows spoofing of data and gives so much finer details about the exact method getting used. Just curious here...

    • andy_o

      Yesterday I just uninstalled XPrivacy in order to use one of these apps (the second one mentioned here). Facebook in particular behaves weird when you block location to it. If you open something that requires your location, like a post with location (say, by mistake), the GPS starts up, and if you're somewhere where there's no GPS signal, it keeps searching and doesn't go away even after you get out of FB, you have to swipe it out of RAM for the GPS searching to stop. I like that this is simpler. For the most part I just want to block location access to some apps.

      • http://nrajesh.com Rajesh

        I am okay with FB reading my location data. I think this is a selective issue. But I am wary of apps that simply want to read my contact info, recent call list, list of installed apps, super user rights. Even among the apps that request these,I tend to go with developer reputation and decide.

        • dmo580

          I think my bigger issue with Facebook is that it automatically uses GPS even for locating your messaging people where your location shows up. People spend a lot of time browsing Facebook. It might make sense to just use cell tower geolocation so the GPS isn't kept active searching while someone's using GPS in a building.

          Twitter falls in the same category too.

          • http://jameswatt.me/ James Watt

            Agree with you completely here. My biggest complaint about all of these social networks is that they essentially are tracking your location all the time. It's so unnecessary for what it is that I need to use Twitter and Facebook for.

    • Joseph

      XPrivacy, because of data spoofing, is 'better'. Some apps do not like the idea of "permission denied" for their permissions, and will crash. But if they get a small subset of (invalid) data instead, they don't know the difference, and shouldn't crash.

      But it does require the XPosed framework, and needs a rooted phone of course. At least one of the options listed in this article does not require root.

      • Sergiu Dogaru

        Although not very well documented, AppOps does the same thing on most part. For example, an app that tries to get your contacts but it's OP is revoked will get an empty list of contacts instead of having a SecurityException thrown at it. XPrivacy handles better stuff like INTERNET (which AppOpsManager lacks completely right now), but AppOps is deeply integrated into the system and is safer.

        • Joseph

          Thank you! That helps. Just one follow up question - why the permissions?

          I'm guessing storage is to export settings.
          Network comm - is that only for the IAP? (or is this ad-supported?)

          Prevent device from sleeping... ?

          • Sergiu Dogaru

            storage - to temporarily save the App Ops eXtended apk which gets installed in your /system/app folder (completely optional)

            network - IAP and downloading the App Ops eXtended apk (optional)

            prevent device from sleeping - prevent from sleeping while downloading the 9Mb AppOps eXtended apk (also completely optional)

          • Joseph

            Wonderful! and thank you for taking the time to respond :)

        • Joseph

          ok - one more question regarding what you described ;) Is this only available in paid version? Or free version too?

          • Sergiu Dogaru

            That's in the free version too, because it's all handled by the AppOpsManager service (which is a part of Android). That's the beauty of it: the actual OP disallowing part is integrated so deeply in the system that it can do the spoofing in a completely native way.

  • Kcls

    That first one has a really really nice icon.

  • duse

    Can anyone answer these questions?

    1) Is this definitively better or worse than XPrivacy? Or is it a mixed bag?
    2) Can you use this without root?
    3) Which is the best app to use to access this right now?
    4) Is denying access to "wakelock" really equivalent to what Greenfiy does, or is there more to it than that?

    Right now I'm unrooted and was considering rooting and using Greenify and XPrivacy. So it'd be great to understand this better to see what is the best choice.

    • http://mygazbook.blogspot.com/ gwatts88

      I would also be interested in knowing the answer to these questions. I noticed in the article AppOps does not include access to the internet permission whereas XPrivacy does if that is any help?

      Greenify + GreenPower + Watchdog + XPrivacy is the combination I use and that seems to be a decent all-round battery improver; along with most of the battery-optimised tweaks activated in the Android Tweaks app and (on my Nexus 4) Franco Kernel and the optimised Dalvik runtimes things seem to be running very smoothly!

  • Bo

    If I restrict permission, will the app will be trying to access that information? Or does it just give up?

    • Sergiu Dogaru

      the app tries and it gets mock information from the system. It gets an empty list of contacts instead of your actual contacts, it's lead to believe you have zero SMS messages, call logs, etc.. If you revoke those permissions, of course.

  • asianrage

    If you're running CM11, there's a feature called Privacy Guard in Settings/Security that exposes and manages the same App Ops function. It's a bit annoying to get a notification whenever I'm in an app that has this feature implemented, but it works, I think.

  • Christian Tolentino

    can you use this without root access in htc one international version with 4.3 jb?

  • Christian Tolentino

    does this help battery life?

  • motoridersd

    Love it! Looking forward to the wake lock permission, will help to make sure apps do not keep my phone awake. FYI, don't Greenify this app. Doing that caused GPS to stop working in Waze.

  • didibus

    I wonder when they are planning on making it accessible to users. It seems to me like it's not too bad the way it is, they should put it in the settings.

  • LightOff

    Hi! Since my device is not rooted, I only need to install Native AppOps?

  • DroidMate Team

    AppOps for Root resolves 4.4.2 issue, but only for root users

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=droidmate.appopsinstaller

    PS: I'm the author of the app.

  • knoby s

    How do we install app ops extended?

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