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The automatic permission removal of unused apps is a great feature that I quite like (and therefore don't want to necessarily disable for a bunch of apps). However, my phone does not correctly identify unused apps. There are apps I use every day that get their permissions removed every 3 months (seems to be the interval the phone checks).

For example: I use Android Auto which calls up Maps (built-in Google Maps app) just about every day, and every so often, location permission for Maps gets revoked "due to not being used". I use Google Voice (via forwarding) for my voicemail, and permission for contacts gets revoked, etc.

It would seem whatever is supposed to track app usage does not function, and I wonder if there's a way to diagnose/fix that?

Under my Google account "Activity controls", I do have basically everything turned off for privacy, and I hope that's not the issue: (web and app activity -> off, location history -> off, YouTube history -> off, Ad personalization -> off)

As of right now, at least several of the apps that got permissions revoked are listed in the battery usage statistics (from the last charge), so evidently some parts of the system can correctly track usage.

Details:

  • Samsung A52 5G
  • Android 11 One UI 3.1 (using Nova launcher if that matters)
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    Android developers says (see last para) you can alter the default time. You can try setting it to 1000ms to see if it works!//If it does increase the threshold value to a laaaaaarge value //I am on Android 12 so can't say if it works on 11 or not
    – beeshyams
    Feb 18, 2022 at 8:52
  • Of course, this would apply to the whole device and therefore may not be ideal from privacy view - it's a compromise
    – beeshyams
    Feb 18, 2022 at 10:58
  • @beeshyams your suggestion could functionally turn off the feature by setting the threshold to something like years of time, but I'm looking for why usage is not detected correctly. I have had permissions revoked on apps I use every day. Is there a way to debug what the current timer value is (then go open an app and see if it resets)? or to debug for example a log of activities that should have reset the timer?
    – Aaron
    Feb 18, 2022 at 17:35
  • 1. I know what you are looking for and don't have answers, some other Samsung users reported similar 2. My logic was of that there is a bug in detection mechanism which is triggering this for example daily, trying to increase this to two days for example, can possibly help in fine tuning a figure which is neither turning off privacy control nor hampering your usage//It's a long shot //I was Googling yesterday and saw at least three reports from Samsung users - didn't bookmark them to share
    – beeshyams
    Feb 19, 2022 at 4:10
  • @beeshyams if the answer is "there is no way" for anyone other than Samsung to fix / debug this, then I would be willing to accept your suggestion of setting the threshold timer as an answer. It would seem Samsung may have "customized" this feature because instead of each app having it's own threshold, it would seem there is just some sort of global scan every three months to put apps in hibernation (unless it hibernates after the correct time, then simply generates a notification only every three months).
    – Aaron
    Feb 19, 2022 at 15:34

3 Answers 3

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It's not a bug. It's a feature! lol

I received the notification about apps automatically being disabled that weren't used. When I looked at them, several of them were apps that I just used today including Microsoft ToDo which I just installed today.

It was odd to see a newly installed app in the list of apps disabled for not being used so I poked around a bit and noticed there were three categories:

  • Disabled
  • Auto-disabled
  • Manually disabled

EDIT/UPDATE:

Another app, Shazam, was showing all permissions off. I didn't turn them off. I kept Shazam in deep sleep. If I wanted to run it, I would run it. When I closed it, it closed including background processes...As it should be.

When deep sleeping apps are run they aren't logged as being run. They don't show up in the list of recent apps, the battery usage, activity, or anywhere else as if they've been run. They seem to appear disabled to the system. But that's only part of the story.

When you put an app into deep sleep, apparently nothing about the app is visible to the cleanup operation that runs "from time to time" on my phone but 90 days on others, or it chooses to ignore the use and installation date of Deep Sleeping apps. Either way, Deep Sleeping apps will be neutered right along with unused 90+ day apps even if the app was installed an hour before the cleanup operation runs.

So it has to be following one of these two rules:

1.) Remove permissions on apps that have been idle 90 days AND apps with no usage data (Only deep sleeping apps)

OR

2.) Remove permissions on apps that have been idle 90 days AND Deep Sleeping Apps.

Both achieve the same result. The reason it's been so difficult to nail down is because from everything I can discern, it appears to be INTENTIONAL.

I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories but nothing else I can think of explains it. I didn't look for this hypothesis. It found me and I went several other directions trying to avoid that train of thought.

But I can't. The operation to disable permissions doesn't impact apps that aren't Deep Sleeping unless they've been idle 90 days. If they go 89 days, they don't get neutered. An app can literally go 179 days without use before it's shut down because the rule is 90 days. If an app is at 89 days when it runs, it won't be neutered and will remain with permissions until the next run 90 days later. It won't automatically disable an app unless it has an idle time of 90+ days.

But it WILL disable permissions on any Deep Sleeping app even if it was installed just an hour before the operation runs. So an exception for that had to be written.

I originally thought the problem was an oversight by Samsung. But wait. There's more.

I have a Note 9 which is I think 6 years old. I'm just now experiencing this problem. I also have a fairly new tablet. The tablet has two other settings that when I saw them, I realized that I used to have those settings on my phone. When I did I had no problem with deep sleeping apps. It's only recently that I've had trouble but now I know why. They've been removed.

The two settings on my tablet and removed from my Note9 are:

"Remove Permissions if app is unused" which is in the settings of each individual app. It provides the ability to allow any app to sit happily idle as a Deep Sleeping app until called for, then when closed, it goes back to sleep. Precisely how it was meant to work.

"Auto Disable Unused Apps" in the settings. This controls the function that runs every 90 days that disables the apps that haven't been used. If switched off, it won't run.

My daughter's phone is an S21. She has the ability to toggle off and on the "Auto Disable Unused Apps" but not the switch to disable removing permissions. She says that she had that setting when she first got her phone. I can't say for sure if she remembers correctly or not. But I do know that my Note9 did.

When my daughter switches off that setting, it prevents permissions from being stripped from deep sleepers, she loses the ability to auto-disable unused apps. So if she has important apps that she wants to deep sleep, she has to allow other apps to not be disabled automatically. If she wants unused apps after 90 days to be disabled, she can't put anything important with permissions into deep sleeping apps.

Meanwhile, my newer tablet can do both, and I can't do either. For me now, Deep sleeping is only available for apps without permissions unless I'm OK with them shutting down and manually reenabling them every 90 days. To avoid it, such apps have to be in regular sleep mode which means that once launched they're running in the background until I manually shut them down or reboot.

In other words, they're draining my already aging battery even faster. One last ploy by Samsung to force me to spend $1000+ on a new phone with no pop-out stylus, headphone jack, or expandable memory. .

So now I'm convinced that this behavior was created with intent. The price of the device has no bearing on the level of control over apps provided, only the age. What will be interesting to see is if going forward, phones that have these two settings lose them over time with updates while new devices continue to include them. It would be really nice to be able to track the various models and Android versions to see where it is now, and review it in a couple years for changes.

SHORT VERSION:

  • IF you have the "Remove Permissions if app is unused" setting available, you can turn it off in the individual app settings and the app can sit in Deep Sleeping Apps without issue while "Auto Disable Unused Apps" is turned on. The device can still automatically disable permissions on unused apps with no impact on permissions for deep sleeping apps with the option turned off.

  • IF you only have the "Auto Disable Unused Apps" option, it can be turned off which prevents unused apps from being disabled automatically, or you can put apps into deep sleep that don't require permissions. Putting apps with permissions into deep sleep without the top option will result in the permissions being revoked every 90 days.

  • OR if like me, you have neither option, you simply can't put apps into deep sleep if they require permissions unless you're willing to deal with having to occasionally have those permissions stripped.

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  • I am struggling to see how this answers the question. There is too much waffle for a start. Please read the help on how to answer a question. Mar 20 at 6:55
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In 2024, Settings -> Battery -> Background usage limits allows one to control which apps should not be put to sleep.

In addition, each app has a setting under App -> App Info, called Remove permissions if app is unused.

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So, I don't know much about Android or coding for it. But I had a similar problem with an app. It was an app that came up automatically under certain use cases. I'm pretty sure it was a texting app.

Well, months would go by where I did not click on the app to open it. Only on notifications that popped up, and this would happen to me too. Unless I either closed the app in recently used applications and opened it, or went and pressed on the icon. I know when in the car Android Auto can auto-connect and give you a notification. Maybe that is why, I don't know if I'm just spitballing, but, when I started to open the app at least once a month manually, it stopped happening. This was a Galaxy S8 too.

I have a Pixel 4XL now. But that stopped it for me. Almost seemed like the OS forgot the app was running in the background. It's not an educated guess cause like I said I don't know a lot about Android, or various flavors of it, but maybe it's a similar issue?

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  • according to the docs linked in the comments, interacting with a notification should reset the timer just like opening an app manually. My problem is even with apps I open manually however. I took a trip abroad in January, used google translate a bunch, then in Feb, its permissions were revoked because "I hadn't used it in over 3 months" despite extensive use less than a month ago. I saddened to hear sorta confirmation this may just be a Samsung thing however.
    – Aaron
    Feb 19, 2022 at 21:33

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