Android 12 could get this long-time Windows and MacOS feature

Could Android 12 be copying this long-time Windows and MacOS feature?
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google is toying with introducing a trash bin to Android 12, giving smartphones a feature that Windows and Mac devices have long had.

A universal folder for deleted files has been part of desktop computing for decades. Mac fans will be familiar with the Trash logo in the dock, while Windows users have had a Recycling Bin icon on their desktop since Windows 95. These folders provide a sort of ‘waiting room’ for deleted files, to ensure you really don’t need them before they’re gone forever. Now, by digging into the latest Developer Preview code for Android 12, XDA Developers’ Zachary Wander was able to enable a feature that would let Android users manage a list of pre-deleted files. 

As you can see from the image below, Trash on Android gives you a summary of how many gigabytes of data are in this limbo state, and will then give you the option to empty it, deleting the contents forever. 

Android 12 Trash Bin

(Image credit: XDA Developers)

Currently, the ability to restore these deleted files doesn’t seem to be present, but it’s possible that something like this will follow.  

Last year, the site found a similar feature which allows the restoration of files hidden in the Google Files app. The Files trash bin still hasn’t been enabled in the app, but the fact that a “Restore” button is in there at all shows that Google understands accidental file deletion does happen.

An in-app trash bin is possible because Google first introduced a trash API for apps in Android 11, but it’s both underused and a lot more limited than what we’re talking about here. Android’s scoped storage limitations mean that apps are only given direct access to the files they create without extra permissions (as the Files app would receive out of necessity), which means there simply isn’t one universal Trash area. Until, possibly, now. 

Frankly, it’s a bit of a head scratcher, because the way people have grown to use smartphones is quite different to the desktop experience, where a trash system has been present since the move to GUIs. While file manager apps certainly have a niche for power users, Android phones have been around for 13 years without requiring the same kind of file management that PC and Mac owners are used to.

Still, for those that like to tinker and want full control over their OS, this could be an exciting development. Hopefully we’ll hear more about this and other upcoming features at Google I/O 2021, which will kick off on Tuesday May 18. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.