Manifest Merger, maxSdkVersion, and a Missing Permission
Manifest merger is a wonderful thing in Android app development… usually. It allows libraries to contribute elements and attributes automatically to an app’s manifest, saving the app developer from adding those things manually.
However, sometimes, it will not work in an intuitive fashion.
Such appears to have been the case for a developer, who posted
this Stack Overflow question,
outlining some curious symptoms. Despite having a
WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE, when he would request it at runtime, he would
never get it. In fact, if he did not also ask for
Android would not even bother asking the user about the runtime permission.
This symptom – calling
requestPermissions() and being rejected outright –
sometimes is caused by the user having clicked “Don’t ask again” for the permission.
However, it can also occur if your manifest lacks the
but that did not appear to be the case here.
Until the developer checked the merged manifest.
Something – I assume a library – was adding
WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE. Presumably, the library is writing to
and needs this permission on older devices, but not newer ones. However, the
app needed the permission for all versions, as the app is writing elsewhere
on external storage.
maxSdkVersion causes the
element to vanish, in effect, on newer devices. That’s why runtime permissions
were not working. Even though the app had the
the library’s contributed
maxSdkVersion negated it for newer devices.
The fix for the app developer was to add
<uses-permission> element, to block the
maxSdkVersion attribute and allow
the permission to be requested on all devices.
From the standpoint of the library author, though, this is a case of “being caught
between a rock and a hard place”. If you include
maxSdkVersion, you correctly
advertise your library’s needs and you minimize the permissions that your library
contributes to the app. However, for
dangerous permissions, it violates
the Principle of Least “WTF?”
for app developers using the library. If you do not include
you cause fewer problems for app developers who need the permission all the time,
but you may wind up requiring the permission in cases where it is not needed.
My guess is that
WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE is the #1 permission for use with
maxSdkVersion. If your library requests this permission, think about whether
maxSdkVersion is appropriate for your use case… and then document your requirements.
In particular, if you use
maxSdkVersion, make sure that your documentation
mentions this and prompts library users to add deal with this if their apps
require the permission for more API levels.
Developers using libraries should peer at the Merged Manifest tab of Android Studio
from time to time, to see what’s in there and tailor the results via
attributes as needed.
a bit two tons of luck,
we might get more information when this occurs in LogCat.