Google is gearing up to launch the Android 13 photo picker

The company is readying the underlying APIs that can further restrict apps’ data access

Android 13 comes with a new photo picker tool, but so far, we haven’t seen any app use it (or at least test it) in the wild. That’s because Google doesn’t have the necessary underlying APIs and features in place for this just yet, though this is about to change soon. Google is rolling out a new developer service and the corresponding user experience needed for the photo picker as part of the May Google System update, the company’s over-the-air update to Android components.

As we spotted in the Google System update changelog, the company is rolling out “New developer service and user experience to allow users to select specific photos or videos to share with an app rather than granting permission to all media files on the device. ” This is right in line with the Android developers documentation detailing the photo picker, which states in an info box:

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Note: Upcoming Google Play system updates are expected to include new features related to the photo picker. In one such update, the library will add support for apps that target Android 11 (API level 30) or higher (excluding Android Go devices).

With this wording in mind, it’s possible that the photo picker will also arrive on older Android versions. It’s been confirmed that the underlying code for the photo picker is already available in Android 12L, where Esper.io’s Mishaal Rahman was able to activate a working prototype of the feature. Google wants to support the photo picker in apps that target Android 11 (API level 30) or higher, so it might be possible to come to even older Android releases, too. Even if that’s not the case, this low entry barrier for app developers could mean that we will see widespread adaptation of the photo picker sooner rather than later.

While Android has already become much more secure thanks to more restrictions hindering apps from accessing all of your files without your permission, the photo picker is another step to more tightly sealed off environments for individual apps. The company previously already added a file picker interface that gives an app access to a few user-selected files only. These efforts are part of Google’s Scoped Storage initiative started in Android 11, which silos off big parts of your file storage from most apps.


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