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Android clampdown on calls and texts access trashes bunch of apps

Users unchuffed, devs pulling bricked wares off Google Play

Android looks a little less open now that Google has begun to enforce draconian new rules on accessing a phone's call and text logs.

Developers have been forced to remove features or in some cases change the fundamental nature of the application. One example is BlackBerry's Hub, an email client which also aggregated notifications from a variety of apps and presented them chronologically in a timeline. This application has lost its ability to includes calls and texts in that timeline.

Exceptions created by Google don't seem to be honoured, developers complained. One said that an enterprise archiving app – a category specifically exempt from the clampdown – has been broken.

Another developer, Miroslav Novosvetsky of MobileSoft, rued that he might have to withdraw his Callistics usage monitor app altogether.

Another application that had to remove functionality was antitheft security app Cerberus, which used to issue remote control commands to a device via SMS.

The changes were intended to counter rogue applications that access the phone's personal call and messaging databases. Google made an exception for backup, archiving and spam detection apps, and applications and services that need to read a text message for 2FA. But particularly hard hit are applications where reading a text is an ancillary function. Tasker, the most used automation app on Android, was excluded, but later formally blessed with an exception. The changes have been roiling Android developers since early October; Google had intended the axe to fall on 1 January but extended the deadline.

BlackBerry didn't get an exception and has renamed the application to reflect its new status: it's now "Hub+ Inbox".


"Inbox consolidates all your emails and calendar events in one unified app, and Inbox seamlessly integrates social notifications from Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and more," is how the company describes it.

"Old text messages and sent text messages are no longer available due to a Google Play policy change," BlackBerry support explained.

Users appeared to be surprised by the changes.

"All my texts have disappeared and phone is running really slow," complained one. "Those were my text messages, with numbers that I don't have in my contacts book so have no way of replying to now. I'd like them back please!"

(The texts haven't been deleted – they're still visible in Google's SMS app Messages, but the confusion is understandable.)

Another howled: "The HUB used to be this amazing one stop shop for all or my calls – emails – texts and all of my correspondence. But The Google has now deemed that that is no longer acceptable. What is the point of seeing my texts if I can only see what they wrote and not my response? The HUB used to be just that – a HUB for everything. Now it is just a router to Google's apps."

The experience varies as some BlackBerry-branded devices appear to be exempt, but Hub+ running on non-BlackBerry phones has been blitzed. Devices running older versions of Android, which don't update to the latest versions of the apps, should not be affected.

Wi-Fi access is now more strictly controlled too, posing further issues for automation apps.

Developers who fall outside the exemptions and haven't removed the permission requests to access call and SMS logs can expect to have their applications removed.

We contacted Google for comment. ®

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