Some of the most innovative applications on the Play Store are built on using APIs in ways that Google never intended. There are apps that can remap your volume keys to skip music tracks, record and play back touch inputs on webpages or games, and even provide alternative navigation keys so you can use your device’s entire screen. All of these examples that I’ve just mention rely on Android’s Accessibility APIs. But that may soon change, as the Google Play Store team is sending out emails to developers telling them that they can no longer implement Accessibility Services unless they follow Google’s guidelines.
Accessibility Services is an attack vector for malicious software, so in that light it makes sense. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating that good, innovative software gets smothered like this. Luckily, this is Android, so the developers can always just distribute their applications outside of the Play Store through sideloading, but that’s not exactly a secure solution for most people – and let’s be honest, not being in the Play Store will be the death knell for most developers.
The real solution would be to provide APIs for things like this, but I doubt Google is going to invest any time, effort, and money into creating such APIs, since they seem more concerned with shoving useless digital assistants down our throats.
Digital assistants… why? There is seriously this massive push for these useless things. Even if I were the type of moron to talk to my phone, even when I try to see how far the tech has come, it still falls short.
Though I did tell Bixby the other day that it sucked, and it came back with some reply about trying to be nicer and coming back later when I was in a better mood.
Oh and it spelled the ‘F-word’ with a ph!’
Edited 2017-11-14 02:22 UTC
I use the 1Password password manager. I also use the Notification History Pro app. And something else I forget at the moment. At some point all 3 required the accessibility features enabled for full functionality to work.
Now, given that the only way for that to happen requires manually going in and enabling those features for the apps — the apps can’t enable them itself — it sure seems fishy that they are taking this step now. Something more is definitely going on here.
I’d even say it’s going to DECREASE security in some situations.. I’ve used Notification History Pro to find alerts/messages/notifications that popped up on the screen but then somehow mysteriously “auto closed” before I could see them. (I deleted the app that was doing that). I wouldn’t have been able to do that without that tool, and as that uses the accessibility APIs to function, I suspect it’s on the short list to be killed.
Of course Google won’t issue refunds for apps they brick along the way by doing this either. I wonder what would happen if everyone who had apps disabled because of this took Google to small claims court. Sad thing is, most apps being under $10 i’m not even sure you’d be able to because I think there’s a minimum damages amount.
This is basically the death knell for modding Android without rooting, installing custom ROMs â€“ and most importantly â€“ without voiding warranty. The standard Android distribution is useless crap and most vendor-provided distros are either bloated or just plain horrible.
I myself am using All In One Gestures and System UI Tuner to make Android make a little sense and I guess both of these apps will be gone now.
Although, implementing custom gestures might still be allowed.
Edited 2017-11-14 08:20 UTC
Quote from what you wrote:
Of course it would be great if Google would move these API’s so they are available for all apps in a secure way, but since many of these apps violate the “apps cannot interfere with other apps or the OS” rule for good reasons this is probably impossible.
Another option would be to work more closely with these app-developers so tools that are truly useful can get integrated into Android in a more secure way while being available to everyone. There are many reasons (bloat, update-tight-to-OS, licensing) why this would not be feasible.