It can be hard for Android users to keep track of what exactly their apps are doing, but it looks like that’s about to change with Android 4.3.
Android Police caught wind of a function called “App Ops” in the latest Android update that lets you control exactly what apps can access, be that navigation, data, phone calls or something else.
That way if specific apps are acting up and, for example, using your phone’s GPS while you don’t want to turn navigation off system-wide, you can go into App Ops and restrict the problematic app’s permissions.
It seems the feature isn’t fully ready yet, but there are a number of ways for adventurous Android users to activate it.
You have my permission to die
TechRadar asked Google to clarify whether users were meant to access these controls and whether the App Ops feature will ever be implemented more fully in the OS. We haven’t heard back from the company yet, but we’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, it seems the easiest way to access individual apps’ permissions on Android 4.3 is to open the app and navigate through the settings menu to “App Ops.”
But to get the full App Ops experience you can download a third party called Permission Manager app from Google Play.
The app was launched yesterday, though it looks like these functions weren’t yet meant to be accessed in this way, so use at your own risk.
But if you do boot it up, it should display a list of all your apps with the specific functions each use and a timestamp showing the last time they used them. It’s divided into four categories based on permissions related to “messaging,” “location,” “personal” and “device.”
Selecting an app shows a full list of permissions for it with easy on/off toggles, though it seems those permissions won’t show up there until the app has tried to use them at least once.
That means at this point you’ll never know if the list is complete, since location permissions for Facebook won’t show up there until Facebook has tried to use location services at least once. It’s a slight annoyance that may be part of the reason this feature isn’t 100 percent there yet.
In addition, if you turn off location services for, say, Facebook, then forget that you did so, the system won’t remind you if you try to use geotags in Facebook and the app can’t access the GPS. It simply won’t work.
So again, use at your own risk, and hopefully “App Ops” will get more official in a future Android update.