What you need to know
- Android 12 could come with an app hibernation feature.
- It'll help users conserve space and resources by clearing data from unused apps.
- The feature was discovered in a hidden Android 12 build.
Smartphone users often download a lot of apps, far too many to be used by any one user. And research indicates that we don't really use that many. Indeed, there are one-off apps for events, apps for local stores that only get used in stores, banking apps that get used when discrete management is needed, apps that only need running on a case-to-case basis (no one chooses to Zoom on their phone I promise you), and so on. Statista even notes that 25% of apps are only ever opened once. Yet these apps can remain installed on our phones, having access to our data when not necessary, and even taking up space with cached files and so on. For Android 12, Google is working on this with a new feature that'll automatically limit how many resources these apps take up.
The report comes from the sleuths over at XDA Developers, digging into leaked Android 12 developer builds to uncover an "Unused apps" toggle. It lives in the App Info page of every app. and can be used to effectively hibernate any app. There's even a new section in the settings app that can automatically hibernate any app that goes unopened for 3 months. What that means is that all permissions will be revoked. It'll also stop notifications and delete all temporary files. In essence, the app will exist on your phone, but it'll be almost as new — assumedly things like sign-ins and deliberate downloads will remain.
This is a feature that seems to flow naturally from the Files app. Any user who's used Files will often get a recommendation to delete the unused app if their phone is low on space. Really good Android phones nowadays come with 128GB of storage, but some phones still have 64GB or even less, making features like this necessary.
As it's a test feature hidden behind a flag, it's not 100% certain that this is a feature that'll make it to the final release. That said, Google's I/O is just next month, so we'll learn a lot more about what Android 12 has to offer. Given that Apple has a similar feature on iOS, it's more likely than not. The first beta is expected to be available on all modern Pixels from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5.
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