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Managing package visibility

As you create your app, it's important to consider the set of packages, representing other installed apps on the device, that your app intends to access. If your app targets Android 11 (API level 30) or higher, the system makes some apps visible to your app automatically, but it hides other apps by default. By making some apps not visible by default, the system helps encourage the principle of least privilege by telling the system which other apps to make visible to your app, and it helps app stores like Google Play assess the privacy and security that your app provides for users.

These differences in app visibility affect the return results of methods that give information about other apps, such as queryIntentActivities(). The differences in visibility also affect explicit interactions with other apps, such as starting another app's service.

This guide lists the set of apps that are visible to your app automatically and describes how to make other apps visible to your app. The guide also gives some suggestions on how you can configure log messages to determine how the visibility of other apps affects your app.

Apps that are visible automatically

The system automatically makes some apps visible to your app so that your app can interact with them without needing to declare the <queries> element. This behavior helps support basic functionality and common use cases.

In particular, the following types of apps are always visible to your app, even when your app targets Android 11 (API level 30) or higher:

In addition, you can start another app's activity using either an implicit or explicit intent, regardless of whether that other app is visible to your app.

System packages that are visible automatically

Some system packages that implement core Android functionality are automatically visible to your app, even when your app targets Android 11 (API level 30) or higher. The specific set of packages depends on the device that runs your app.

To view the full list of packages for a specific device, run the following command in a terminal on your development machine:

adb shell dumpsys package queries

In the command output, find the forceQueryable section. This section includes the list of packages that the device has made visible to your app automatically.

Declare that your app interacts with a specific set of other apps

If your app targets Android 11 (API level 30) or higher and needs to interact with apps other than the ones that are visible automatically, add the <queries> element in your app's manifest file. Within the <queries> element, specify the other apps by package name, by intent signature, or by provider authority, as described in the following sections.

Query and interact with specific packages

If you know the specific set of apps that you want to query or interact with, such as apps that integrate with your app, or apps whose services you use, include their package names in a set of <package> elements inside the <queries> element:

<manifest package="com.example.game">
    <queries>
        <package android:name="com.example.store" />
        <package android:name="com.example.services" />
    </queries>
    ...
</manifest>

Query and interact with apps given an intent filter

Your app might need to query or interact with a set of apps that serve a particular purpose, but you might not know the specific package names to include. In this situation, you can list intent filter signatures in your <queries> element. Your app can then discover apps that have matching <intent-filter> elements.

The following example allows your app to see installed apps that support JPEG image sharing:

<manifest package="com.example.game">
    <queries>
        <intent>
            <action android:name="android.intent.action.SEND" />
            <data android:mimeType="image/jpeg" />
        </intent>
    </queries>
    ...
</manifest>

The <intent> element has a few restrictions:

  • You must include exactly one <action> element.
  • You cannot use the path, pathPrefix, pathPattern, or port attributes in a <data> element. The system behaves as if you set each attribute's value to the generic wildcard character (*).
  • You cannot use the mimeGroup attribute of a <data> element.
  • Within the <data> elements of a single <intent> element, you can use each of the following attributes at most once:

    • mimeType
    • scheme
    • host

    You can distribute these attributes across multiple <data> elements or use them in a single <data> element.

The <intent> element supports the generic wildcard character (*) as the value for a few attributes:

  • The name attribute of the <action> element.
  • The subtype of the mimeType attribute of a <data> element (image/*).
  • The type and subtype of the mimeType attribute of a <data> element (*/*).
  • The scheme attribute of a <data> element.
  • The host attribute of a <data> element.

Unless otherwise specified in the previous list, the system doesn't support a mix of text and wildcard characters, such as prefix*.

Query and interact with apps given a provider authority

In cases where you need to query a content provider but don't know the specific package names, you can declare that provider authority in a <provider> element, as shown in the following snippet:

<manifest package="com.example.suite.enterprise">
    <queries>
        <provider android:authorities="com.example.settings.files" />
    </queries>
    ...
</manifest>

You can declare multiple provider authorities in a single <queries> element. To do so, complete one of the following steps:

  • In a single <provider> element, declare a semicolon-delimited list of authorities.
  • Include multiple <provider> elements, all within the same <queries> element. In each <provider> element, declare either a single authority or a semicolon-delimited list of authorities.

Query and interact with all apps

In rare cases, your app might need to query or interact with all installed apps on a device, independent of the components they contain. To allow your app to see all other installed apps, the system provides the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission.

The following list gives some examples of use cases where the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission is appropriate to include:

  • Launcher apps
  • Accessibility apps
  • Browsers
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing apps
  • Device management apps
  • Security apps

In the vast majority of cases, however, it's possible to fulfill your app's use cases by interacting with the set of apps that are visible automatically and by declaring the other apps that your app needs to access in your manifest file. To respect user privacy, your app should request the smallest amount of package visibility necessary in order for your app to work.

In an upcoming policy update, look for Google Play to provide guidelines for apps that need the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission.

Log messages for package filtering

To discover more details about how the default visibility of apps affects your app, you can enable log messages for package filtering. If you're developing a test app or debuggable app in Android Studio, this capability is enabled for you. Otherwise, you can run the following command in a terminal window to enable it manually:

adb shell pm log-visibility --enable PACKAGE_NAME

Then, whenever packages are filtered out of a PackageManager object's return values, you see a message similar to the following in Logcat:

I/AppsFilter: interaction: PackageSetting{7654321 \
  com.example.myapp/12345} -> PackageSetting{...} BLOCKED