How Scoped Storage Changed Android File Access

Mishaal Rahman
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Get ready for a doozy. This episode tries to explain how storage works on Android with a focus on Google's on-again, off-again approach to scoped storage and how apps navigate it all. Hopefully you don't come out of this more confused than before.

We talk with Raymond Lai, part of the team behind Amaze File Manager.

  • 03:01 - How did storage access used to work in the early days of Android? What is the difference between internal and external storage?
  • 05:00 - Why is external storage mounted using a virtual file system? Where can apps store files, and what is the "Android" folder used for? What was the problem with mounting external storage as VFAT?
  • 10:00 - Why did Android 4.4 switch from VFAT to using FUSE to emulate FAT32? Is FUSE still being used? What is SDCardFS?
  • 12:07 - What is Scoped Storage? How did it affect external storage access?
  • 13:12 - What is the MediaStore API? How does Scoped Storage protect users?
  • 17:02 - What is the Storage Access Framework, and why was it so controversial? How did it affect apps?
  • 24:00 - How did Scoped Storage break file access on some Android TV devices?
  • 26:54 - How did Google respond to developer feedback on Scoped Storage before Android 10's release?
  • 27:43 - How did Scoped Storage change in Android 11? What is the "all files access" permission and what are its limitations? How did file managers get around these limitations?
  • 31:55 - Why did Android return to FUSE? What was the limitation with SDCardFS? How did Google improve FUSE, and what problems does it still have?
  • 38:44 - What is FUSE passthrough in Android 12? How does it improve performance?
  • 40:22 - How will Android 13 change file access on Android?

About the Podcast

Android Bytes (powered by Esper)

A weekly show that dives deep into the Android OS

Android Bytes (powered by Esper) is the podcast that dives deep into the engineering and business decisions behind the world’s most popular OS. 

Android powers over 3 billion devices worldwide and is the platform of choice for over a thousand companies. You’ll find Android on smartphones, tablets, watches, TV, cars, kiosks, and so much more. How does Google architect Android to run on so many form factors, and how do companies fork AOSP to make it run on even more devices? These are the kinds of questions the Android Bytes podcast considers each week.

Join cohosts Mishaal Rahman and David Ruddock, two journalists with extensive knowledge covering the Android OS platform and ecosystem, as they speak to system architects, kernel engineers, app developers, and other distinguished experts in the Android space.

Get in touch with us at Esper if you’re looking to use Android device management for GMS or non-GMS devices — we have the experience you need.

Our music is “19” by HOME and is licensed under CC BY 3.0.


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Mishaal Rahman
Mishaal Rahman

Mishaal Rahman is a Technical Editor at Esper. He has been an Android user for over a decade and has been at the forefront of Android news coverage for half a decade. His in-depth breakdowns of new Android versions have been referenced across the Internet.

Mishaal Rahman
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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