What is the “Read Phone State and ID” permission for Android apps all about?

Ken April 6, 2011
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This applies to a lot of Android apps including the MakeUseOf app. One of the permissions it requires is “Read Phone State and ID” permission.

My question is twofold:

1. What exactly does granting this permission do?
2. Why does the MakeUseOf app require this permission?

Thanks.

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  1. Ken
    April 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Angela,

    Thanks for the very comprehensive answer to my question. Haven't had a chance to click on all the links provided but will do so as time permits.

    Also, I just downloaded your guide to Facebook marketing for a friend of mine. Thanks for that excellent manual.

    Ken

    • Tina
      April 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

      Thank you for the feedback, Ken!

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 11, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Thanks Ken - The links are just added information really. It's just for if you're keen to know what other people think about the permissions.

      Hope the Facebook guide and the answer are of some use to you!

  2. Angela Alcorn
    April 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

    There doesn't seem to be any official documentation about this permission, as it was forgotten in the release information for Android 1.6. But, generally speaking it covers a lot of ground.

    The android.permission.READ_PHONE_STATE or the “Read Phone State and Identity” permission can be used to do a range of tasks, from simple things to quite invasive:
    - turning an application's sound off when a call comes in
    - verifying the user/phone with IMEI information
    - gathering personal information such as your phone number.

    Sensible users will do their best to avoid any application which requires this permission, because of the possibility of malware using this permission. That doesn't mean that all apps using this permission are actually malware. It may just mean that they couldn't find a way to make their app function correctly without the use of it.

    A number of applications made to be compatible with Android 1.5 automatically have this permission granted along with "Modify/delete SD card contents" so that older permissions were granted.

    Developers are naturally trying to get this divided up into several smaller permissions, rather than one all-encompassing one which could indicate possible malware.

    Here's some useful links where people have asked similar questions or tried to explain risks:
    http://androidforums.com/android-applications/24365-application-read-phone-state-identity.html
    http://forums.dataviz.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=640
    http://groups.google.com/group/android-developers/browse_thread/thread/c97c3eb5dcef0519
    https://market.android.com/details?id=jp.ne.neko.freewing.ReadPhoneState
    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1747178/android-permissions-phone-calls-read-phone-state-and-identity
    http://androidforums.com/android-applications/60747-apps-suddenly-have-storage-phone-call-permissions-without-asking.html
    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=4101

    The MakeUseOf application doesn't ask for this permission deliberately. In the market and when you agree to permissions it's only for "Network Communication: Full internet Access / View Network State".
    https://market.android.com/details?id=com.makeuseof

    The other two permissions for "Storage: Modify/delete SD card contents" and “Phone Calls: Read Phone State and Identity” appear in the list after it's installed. It seems to be a bug to do with being compatible with Android 1.5 (Discussed here: http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=4101 ). There seems to be a hack that will fix it.

    Which means, we should probably get someone to fix our Android app quick smart. Thanks for alerting us to the problem!