Jelly Bean App Encryption Feature Breaks Account Sync For Paid Apps

While Jelly Bean brought about a small jump in the Android version number (Android 4.0>4.1), it does contain a lot of under-the-hood changes. One seemingly small feature introduced by Google in Jelly Bean is that all app data of all paid apps are encrypted for better security. However, this seemingly small change for the good has put developers of certain apps in a fix.

The problem

In Jelly Bean, Google changed the default app install location for paid apps from /data to /mnt/asec. This small change leads to some issues with paid apps that use the ‘Accounts’ intent. Apps like Endomondo Pro that can sync contacts to the People’s app, disappear from the ‘Accounts’ sub-menu after a reboot.

Here is the whole issue explained by Mathias Roth, the developer of HaxSync -:

Google Play on Jelly Bean installs paid Apps to /mnt/asec instead of /data (I am guessing this has to do with the new App Encryption). Unfortunately, this leads to some issues as it seems like Google didn’t quite think this through…

Various caches etc are generated during boot process before /mnt/asec gets mounted. I don’t know for sure how that affects widgets, as I don’t have any experience in that area of Android.

The effect this has on applications that use Accounts is the following: The accounts cache gets generated before /mnt/asec is mounted, so Android thinks their accounts are not used by any apps and can be safely removed.

This is all the Jelly Bean workaround on Google Play does, btw: It’s a free app that pretends to use the HaxSync account. That app gets found during the boot, so your HaxSync account doesn’t get deleted. Unfortunately, this workaround causes a few other issues as Android doesn’t seem to like two apps sharing one account type. Marten Gajda, a fellow Android dev, has published an advanced workaround that might fix those issues, I didn’t have the time to take a look at that yet, though.

In simpler words, due to the change in location, some apps that use the ‘Accounts’ intent are not found during the boot process, and thus vanish from under ‘Accounts’ after a reboot. The workaround to this problem includes releasing a free app in the Play Store which makes use of the ‘Account’ intent of the app in question.

The worst part is that all the affected apps are getting 1 star reviews from its customers due to this change from Google. HaxSync is not the only app that is facing this issue. Other popular apps like Endomondo Pro, CalDav Sync, some live wallpapers and many other popular paid apps are also facing the same issue.

The Only Solution

The issue has already been reported in AOSP, but currently has a medium priority. If even a small portion of Android users vote for this issue, so that it gets an urgent priority, Google should hopefully look into the matter and release a fix soon.

Time to show what we can do, Android lovers!

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Rajesh Pandey

Rajesh is a 19 year old nerd, currently pursuing B.Com Hons from Bhawanipore college in Kolkata, India. He loves everything tech, especially Android. You can follow him on twitter @ePandu or mail to him at [email protected]