Accessing Cloud Storage using the Android Storage Access Framework

Recent years have seen the wide adoption of remote storage services (otherwise known as “cloud storage”) to store user files and data. Driving this growth are two key factors. One is that most mobile devices now provide continuous, high speed internet connectivity, thereby making the transfer of data fast and affordable. The second factor is that, relative to traditional computer systems (such as desktops and laptops), these mobile devices are constrained in terms of internal storage resources.

A high specification Android tablet today, for example, typically comes with 64Gb of storage capacity. When compared with a mid-range laptop system with a 750Gb disk drive, the need for the seamless remote storage of files is a key requirement for many mobile applications today. In recognition of this fact, Google introduced the Storage Access Framework as part of the Android 4.4 SDK.

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This chapter will provide a high level overview of the storage access framework in preparation for the more detail oriented tutorial contained in the next chapter, entitled An Android Storage Access Framework Example. 51.1 The Storage Access Framework From the perspective of the user, the Storage Access Framework provides an easy to use user interface that allows the user to browse, select, delete and create files hosted by storage services (also referred to as document providers) from within Android applications.

Using this browsing interface (also referred to as the picker), users can, for example, browse through the files (such as documents, audio, images and videos) hosted by their chosen document providers. Figure 51-1, for example, shows the picker user interface in action displaying a collection of files hosted by a document provider service: Figure 51-1 In terms of document providers, these can range from cloud-based services to local document providers running on the same device as the client application.

At the time of writing, the most prominent document providers compatible with the Storage Access Framework are Box and, unsurprisingly, Google Drive. It is highly likely that other cloud storage providers and application developers will soon also provide services that conform to the Android Storage Access Framework. Figure 51-2, for example, illustrates some document provider options listed by the picker interface:

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