Android 12 could support a trash bin feature for deleted files

Unfortunately, there's a lot of complexity behind adding such a feature


Google appears to be working on a new trash bin (or recycle bin, if you go with the Windows naming convention) for Android. Except, the feature isn’t really new, and likely won’t see significant use.

XDA Developers uncovered code in the main Settings app in the Android 12 beta that hints at this new trash bin. Based on what they’ve found, it appears that in Android 12, users will be able to tap ‘Trash’ to view a dialog box that lists how much storage space deleted files currently occupy on their smartphone. It’ll also give users the ability to empty the trash, much in the same way Windows or macOS handles recycle/trash bins.

However, The Verge points out that Android’s trash bin system will likely be much, much more complicated thanks to the nature of the Android OS.

For one, trash actually already exists in Android. Google added a trash API in Android 11 that would let apps hide files instead of instantly and fully removing them. According to The Verge, the feature hasn’t seen much use, although Google apparently is working to support it in its Files app.

Moreover, the current iteration of trash in Android doesn’t have any way to recover deleted files. The Android 12 settings that XDA uncovered don’t appear to add recovery either. But that doesn’t mean apps can’t add recovery — although, if apps aren’t using the trash API, why would they go through the effort of building support to recover files too?

It’s also worth considering that Android handles file management differently than other operating systems. There’s scoped storage, for example, which has a setting that hides files by placing a period in front of their name instead of actually deleting them. There’s also the fact that every Android phone maker can use its own file management apps instead of those offered by Google.

In short, Android could support a trash bin and recovery system, and likely will in combination with Google’s own files app. However, that doesn’t mean any other manufacturer will. And given the myriad of other issues surrounding updates, there’s a good chance manufacturers that do choose to add these features may take a long time to distribute the software to users — if they even choose to update those old phones.

At the same time, The Verge points out that Android is a massive ecosystem and this could be Google’s way of slowly steering it towards a simple, unified trash bin and recovery system. If that’s the case, it may be years before Google’s vision is fully realized on Android devices.

Source: XDA Developers, The Verge