Do you use a third-party call recording app? Your time is about to run out. Google will kill all of these apps on May 11 with an update to its developer policies. Ever since Android 10, call recording apps have used a workaround that involved hooking into the Accessibility API. Google has finally decided to crack down on this.
Reddit user NLL Apps (opens in new tab) (via Android Authority (opens in new tab)) noted the policy change, elaborating on the current situation. Google has made call recording steadily more difficult for several years now, but the company created an especially annoying restriction for users starting in Android 10. This is why third-party apps started to use the Accessibility service workaround.
Call recording is an iffy grey area. The laws surrounding it vary between states in the U.S. and between individual nations across the world. Everyone had to know that this day would come, especially since Google is taking a firmer stance on Android privacy and security in Android 12. It flat out said that, “The Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for remote call audio recording.”
The Wild West days of Android are long gone, though the platform is still a lot more open than iOS. Native call recording is blocked on iPhones, in case you were wondering.
Interestingly enough, native call recording built into some of the best Android phones will continue to work, since they use pre-loaded, hard-coded dialer apps instead of relying on the Accessibility API.
“If the app is the default dialer on the phone and also pre-loaded, accessibility capability is is not required to get access to the incoming audio stream, and hence, will not be in violation,” Google said in a webinar presentation (opens in new tab).
We can't honestly say if this policy change is a good or bad thing. On the one hand, Android has a reputation for openness. But on the other, call recording is such a murky topic that it makes sense for Google to clamp down on it.
If you're using a third-party call recording app, we're not entirely sure how your experience will change come May 11. It's possible that Google will give developers a chance to update their app in accordance with the new policy (essentially hamstringing them) or if the company will flat out remove them from the Play Store on the 11th.