Pixel phones were never affected by this issue
Raise your hand if you’ve seen the annoying pop-up in the hero image that asks you to give Google Photos permission to delete a file. If you’re running Android 11 on a phone that isn’t a Google Pixel (ie. the vast majority of phones out there), then chances are you’ve seen that pop-up. A lot. In fact, you’ll see that pop-up every single time you try to delete a photo in the Google Photos app. Fortunately, unwanted screenshot backups aren’t the only issue that Android 12 may solve for Google Photos users. New developer documentation suggests that the upcoming OS release will let gallery apps like Photos modify files without needing to constantly prompt the user.
The reason that Google Photos (and other gallery apps) on Android 11 asks users for permission to delete a file is complex, but it basically boils down to the fact that they’re not the system gallery app. Well, that isn’t true for Pixel phones where the Photos app is the system gallery app, which is why Pixel users never see this pop-up. But on most devices from Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, ASUS, and others, Google Photos isn’t (and can’t be set as) the system gallery app. Fortunately, that’s no longer needed on Android 12.
Alongside the release of the first Android 12 Beta at Google I/O 2021, Google updated its “features and APIs overview” page with a section on “media management access.” According to Google, an app that targets API level 31 (Android 12) can request users to grant it permission to modify files, move files in and out of the trash, or delete files without needing to prompt the user for each file operation. Once an app is updated to target Android 12, all it needs to do to take advantage of this new functionality is to declare three permissions (
ACCESS_MEDIA_LOCATION), show a UI to the user that explains why the app needs media management access, and direct the user to the new “media management apps” screen on Android 12 to grant it permission.
Sounds simple, right? Since this is a brand new API, though, most gallery apps haven’t been updated yet to take advantage of it. Yes, that means the Google Photos app will also need to be updated to use it. Right now, few users are running the Android 12 beta, and most of them are probably on Pixel phones anyway where there isn’t even an issue, so there’s probably not a lot of pressure for Google to update the Photos app right away. Hopefully, they push an update before Android 12 starts rolling out for the first batch of non-Pixel phones in a few months, though.
Thanks to Twitter user @Doraeigaah for the tip!