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Is there such a thing as a "current user" on Android and a way to switch it?

I'm interested in getting a Motorola Xoom and would like to share it with my wife when at home. For my Windows laptop we us fast-user switching so that we can keep our own tabs and logins. I'm not specifically interested in the privacy aspects of user-switching, so if the OS doesn't support separate users, is there a concept of profile switching?

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This can be done by backing up and restoring repeatedly, but it's definitely not "fast" user switching; probably more trouble than it's worth. Hopefully Google will support this soon, with the advent of tablets that are likely to be shared and such. –  Matthew Read Mar 6 '11 at 17:21
    
Instead of having to back up the user's ROM each time is there any way to setup a dual boot with two separate instances of Android? That would allow for somewhat quickly switch users by rebooting (assuming the xoom has a quick boot time). Maybe something like this? –  Matt Mar 6 '11 at 18:51
    
Matt, this is an interesting idea, but would double the storage space that Android occupies on the device. It would make more sense to implement user profiles similar to how the various Linux desktop environments, Mac OS, and Windows support multiple user accounts. There's no reason why Android cannot do the same. –  Derek Mahar Mar 16 '11 at 21:47
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@DerekMahar: there is a BIG reason why Android cannot do the same thing that Linux does for multiuser switching; the main reason is due to the way Android implements application security jail. In Android, every dalvik app runs under its own user account (barring a few exceptions); this means the user is constantly switching accounts while switching between applications. This does not mean that you cannot implement multi-user in Android, but it wouldn't be implemented the same way as it is on regular Linux desktop. –  Lie Ryan Oct 22 '11 at 16:00
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See this: androidpolice.com/2012/07/30/… This was announced a day ago on reddit –  t0mm13b Jul 31 '12 at 14:44
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6 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This functionality is finally available (only for tablets) in Android 4.2:

As Tatjana Heuser mentioned, it was available in 4.1 as hidden functionality, but in 4.2 it's accessible through the regular user interface.

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Supporting multiple users has been discussed before, and I think that it is something that is needed as well. If I buy a tablet, and set it up for my email, calendar, etc. I don't want that device to be a community device. Which would mean that multiple tablets would be needed in a family household.

A problem with being able to support multiple users is the space required. If each user had their own settings, then the /data/data would have to be much larger to support these extra users. But not only settings, it would have to support all the apps installed by the user too, so /data would have to be much larger too. You couldn't use the same apps between users, because the paid apps are tied to the account that bought them.

I think this will eventually happen, but much larger storage would be needed for the devices. As it is, my device consistently fills the /data/cache and I have to clear that out because of the number of apps I have installed. Now just imagine have 2 (or more users) using the same device. And where do you set the limit on the number of users that can use one device? There are 2 adults and 3 teenagers in my household. So that is 5 people that could potentially be using one device.

I actually experience issues with Google TV about this very topic as well. It doesn't, currently, have gmail, or apps like that, installed, but I can log in to gmail via Chrome Browser, and then if someone else comes and uses the TV/Browser, now I am logged in. (I don't actually do this, but I noticed it to be an issue with services like youtube and such)


update

Google has been hard at work starting to implement this. No actually information on when it will be available, but the start of the foundation has been laid.

In the LockPatternKeyguardView is the following code:

public void onUserChanged(int userId) {
           mLockPatternUtils.setCurrentUser(userId);
           updateScreen(getInitialMode(), true);
}

So multi-user support is coming, at some point.

Update 2 (10/29/2012)

With the announcement of JellyBean 4.2, Multi-User support is available, but only on tablets.

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"... but only on tablets." -- which makes sense because phones are usually not shared. Tablets are. –  Robert Koritnik Jan 9 '13 at 13:33
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With the update to 4.1.2, multiple user profiles can be configured. There's some documentation on xda:

In JellyBean, according to XDA, using the commands (need root, so su prior to calling)

pm create user <name>
pm remove-user <number>
pm list-users

user accounts can be created, deleted, and listed (in this order).

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SwitchMe app just appeared featuring profiles for root users. The free version is able to manage 2 profiles. In order to manage more profiles you need to buy the key for around 3$. SwitchMe needs, not surprisingly, root.

SwitchMe is a unique application for root users that allows you to log in and out of multiple installations of Android just as you would on a desktop computer.

The technology behind SwitchMe saves all of your applications and data, protects it and stores it as a file in memory. You can then log out of an account and log into a fresh installation of Android or another account with its own unique content.

You may create as many profiles as the memory is capable of holding. Some of these may require very little free memory because they contain few apps, others will be larger as they contain many applications and lots of cache and data.

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I am really impressed by the App: That was exactly what I was looking for to share my modded Kindle Fire with other people. –  Flow Feb 25 '12 at 10:23
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I'll admit this isn't a great solution, but in case it helps somebody, Titanium Backup has very limited support for this:

http://matrixrewriter.com/wiki/tiki-index.php?page=TB+-+HOWTOs#How_to_use_the_multi-user_data_profiles_feature_Pro_version_TB_4.0.0_or_above_:

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There is an app called Devide by Enterproid that may do the trick. It's meant to be for deploying in a work environment so that a user can have a work profile and a personal profile on the phone, each separate and secure with different settings and apps specific to the work or personal environment. I don't see why it wouldn't work with two different people's profiles instead of the work vs. personal setup. I don't know about compatibility with the Xoom, or cost (it's probably not cheap) and they are still in an invite only beta but it's worth requesting an invite and checking it out.

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From what I've read the "Work" partition of Divide is extremely limited, eg you can only load apps onto it that have been approved by Enterproid. If you're happy with these restrictions then it is probably the easiest way to divide a device between two users. –  GAThrawn Mar 7 '11 at 10:10
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