Android 13 has landed, and other than all the pleasant headlining features, there are also some regressions. One of them is related to how the clipboard functions. While it’s great to see that it’s more private on Android 13 and automatically clears itself after an hour so none of your passwords or email addresses can be snooped upon, Google may have gone a step too far. As spotted by Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii, it is no longer possible to automatically share your clipboard with other devices using apps like Join, and Google will not fix it.
If you’re not familiar with Join, it’s a service created by Tasker developer João Dias that allows you to sync your clipboard across your phone and your desktop or browser in a very hacky fashion. On Android 12 and lower, this process is as seamless as can be once you’ve everything set up using some ADB commands. When you add something to your clipboard on your phone, you will have access to it on your desktop computer. The system is very similar to Apple’s Universal Clipboard, and it seems to work pretty well for those who rely on it.
Android 13 complicates things. Due to a change in permissions, Join can no longer access device logs easily, even with the ADB commands in question activated. Instead, the app would have to send a prompt every time it wants to read the log, and only when the app itself is in the foreground. Using it as a passive syncing tool is not possible this way. The problem is that Join essentially uses these device logs to see what you add and remove to your clipboard (it’s much more hacky than that, though — Mishaal Rahman has the full explanation over on Twitter). Right now, the app is not fully functioning as intended due to this change on Android 13, and you have to rely on a multi-step process to manually add your phone’s clipboard contents to your computer: Copy the text in question, hit the share button on the clipboard preview that pops up in the bottom left corner, and share to Join.
The problem also affects other automation apps like Tasker, which relies on reading the device log to gather context information to reliably trigger certain actions when certain events take place.
Join developer Dias has already started working on streamlining this manual sharing process further, but unfortunately, Google has confirmed that it will not bring back the old functionality. In a Google Issue Tracker entry, a Google employee states that “Disallowing background access is working-as-intended.” They further expanded that, “We would discourage any type of automation testing relying on logcat. Trying to communicate with logcat without an interaction with the developer/users are not intended use case,” making clear that the company wants to get rid of the functionality.
Other developers have since joined in on the discussion and elaborated how this change doesn’t only affect automation apps like Join and Tasker, but also developer workflows. People cite use cases such as bug and crash reporting, with some services like Scoop now effectively severely hamstrung. Other developers make clear that the log reading capabilities allow them to spot bugs that only show up in certain contexts, like when their phone is idling at night, not connected to a computer that could be used for logging.
Android 10 was the first release to severely cut down on clipboard access for apps other than keyboards. Clipboard managers like Clipper+ were killed off in the process as they couldn’t access the clipboard while in the background anymore. More restrictions like these have creeped into Android over the years. This tweak to device log access is just the latest in a long line, and it looks like we’ll have to get used to less customizability and automation as Google is moving to value security above everything else. Funnily enough, this log reading feature was previously only accessible to those who know their way around the Android Debug Bridge and go out of their way to activate it, so it’s not like it’s something that a malicious actor could easily install on an unwitting victim’s phone.
For those who want to keep using syncing their clipboard on Android 13, a somewhat complicated solution is available. As Mishaal Rahman shared on Twitter, you can work around the issues with Shizuku, the tool of choice for rootless mods. You can use Shizuku to give Join elevated permissions and work around the new limitation on Android 13. The only issue is that this workaround needs reapplying on every boot, which is a hassle.
Android 13 isn’t all bad news, though — there are many things to like. Read our Android 13 review to learn about the key highlights.
UPDATE: 2022/08/17 12:09 EST BY MANUEL VONAU
New workaround added to the end of the article
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