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Android 12 is about to copy an awesome feature from Apple’s iPhone

Published Apr 21st, 2021 9:00AM EDT
Android 12 Features
Image: Google

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It’s usually iPhone users who complain about storage issues with their devices rather than Android users. That’s because many of the newer Android handsets include at least 128GB of storage, while the cheapest iPhones come with just 64GB of memory. Also, some Android devices can support microSD cards to expand local storage, which is a feature iPhones have never had.

A few years ago, Apple added a new feature to iOS that allows iPhone and iPad users to offload unused apps when storage is low. Users can enable a feature called Offload unused apps to automatically delete the apps they rarely use without losing any personal data associated with them. That way, they can immediately free up storage, then reinstall the apps if and when they’re needed.

Rumors from a few months ago indicated that Google might be working on a similar feature for Android 12, replicating the iPhone’s “offload” feature. Now, a new report shows that Android 12 can indeed automatically hibernate unused apps to free up space.

According to xda-developers, the feature hasn’t been included in any of the first two Android 12 Developer Preview releases. But the “Unused apps” hibernation feature was just discovered in a brand new leaked build that the blog obtained.

Android 11 Developer Preview 3 brought a new Auto revoke permissions feature that does exactly what it says: it revokes permissions for apps that have not been used in a few months. The final release of Android 11 then delivered additional features related to Auto revoke permission. The system would notify the user when an app’s permission has been revoked, and the apps would show up in an Unused apps Settings page.

Now it looks like Android 12 will bring the new “hibernation” feature to unused apps. If enabled, the feature will not just revoke the permissions, as was the case before. It’ll also uninstall the apps entirely in order to free up storage space.

Xda managed to activate an Unused apps section on the App info page for every application. In it, there’s a new Remove permissions and free up space toggle. The toggle is separate from the Auto revoke permission toggle, which sits under App Permissions in the App info page.

Android 12 Leaks
Screenshots show Android 12’s purported app hibernation feature. Image source: xda-developers

After activating the hibernation feature, the blog tested it by manually hibernating apps. Android 12 will also allow users to choose which apps to offload. Once that’s done, a new Unused apps page will show up in the Apps section of the Settings app, as seen in the third screenshot above. The page explains what happens with the apps that are labeled as unused:

  • Permissions are removed to protect your data
  • Notifications are stopped to save battery
  • Temporary files are removed to free up space

The report also points out that Android will continue to revoke permissions for unused apps even if the hibernation feature isn’t enabled.

Android’s updated hibernation feature will also clear the cache and delete compilation artifacts, the report explains, but this might not amount to significant storage gains. Still, the hibernation feature might come in handy for users who struggle with storage, even on Android devices with plenty of local storage.

It’s unclear when the app hibernation feature will be rolled out to Android 12 testers. Google should release a new Developer Preview and a more stable Android 12 public beta sometime before its upcoming I/O developer conference.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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