Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Android P may add support for automatically launching an app when connected to certain devices/accessories

The Developer Preview for Android P was released in early March. With it came a host of changes, improvements, and even a regression or two. We’ve cataloged every new feature in an exhaustive two-part roundup, which is worth a read if you’re looking to catch up. This is merely the first of at least four public Android P preview builds on the horizon. We recently learned native support for iris scanners is heading to Android, and that an upcoming Developer Preview will introduce enhanced call filtering. And just this week, we uncovered evidence of another new feature, contextual app launching, that seems likely to ship alongside a future version of Android P.

Automatic app launching in Android P is very clearly a work in progress. From what we’ve gathered in a teardown of Android P’s SystemUI APK, it’ll trigger the launch of predefined apps when a phone connects to certain devices or accessories. Here are the relevant strings:

Always open %1$s when %2$s is connected
Always open %1$s when %2$s is connected

It’s unclear just how configurable automatic app launching will be and what kind of parameters users will be able to tweak. It also remains to be seen which apps and contexts will be supported. Certain categories of applications might very well be excluded. “Connected” might refer to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, or a combination of all three.

Currently, Android doesn’t expose contextual app launching to users. Right now, defining automatic app launching rules requires the use of third-party applications such as IFTTT, Automate, and Tasker, which offer a robust set of automation tools. You can configure Tasker to open Spotify when you connect to your car’s Bluetooth speaker system. Or create an IFTTT recipe that switches on a connected lightbulb when your phone connects to your home Wi-Fi network.

Android P’s automatic app launching feature won’t replace Tasker or IFTTT by any stretch (assuming it sees the light of day, of course). It could lay the foundation for additional automation settings down the line. And in any case, it’d be a boon for Android P’s new Bluetooth features. Android P introduces support for Bluetooth HIDD, which allows you to use your smartphone as a PC input device. With contextual app launching enabled, a touchpad app or mouse app could open automatically every time your phone pairs with your laptop.

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