Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017 | Last Update : 02:35 PM IST

Google releases Autofill for Android phones

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published : Nov 18, 2017, 9:21 am IST
Updated : Nov 18, 2017, 9:22 am IST

Autofill with Google can seamlessly share logins across websites and mobile apps.

Users can choose from multiple Autofill services (similar to keyboards today). By default, Google includes Autofill, but users can also select any third party Autofill app of their choice.
 Users can choose from multiple Autofill services (similar to keyboards today). By default, Google includes Autofill, but users can also select any third party Autofill app of their choice.

Starting in Oreo, Autofill makes it easy for users to provide credit cards, logins, addresses, and other information to apps. Forms in your apps can now be filled automatically, and your users no longer have to remember complicated passwords or type the same bits of information more than once.

Users can choose from multiple Autofill services (similar to keyboards today). By default, Google includes Autofill, but users can also select any third party Autofill app of their choice. Users can manage this from Settings->System->Languages>Advanced->Autofill service.

Now, Autofill with Google supports filing credit cards, addresses, logins, names, and phone numbers. When logging in or creating an account for the first time, Autofill also allows users to save the new credentials to their account. If you use WebViews in your app, which many apps do for logins and other screens, your users can now also benefit from Autofill support, as long as they have Chrome 61 or later installed.

The Autofill API is open for anyone to implement a service. Google is actively working with 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, and LastPass to help them with their implementations towards becoming certified on Android. Google will be certifying password managers and adding them to a curated section in the Play Store, which the "Add service" button in settings will link to. If you are a password manager and would like to be certified, you can get in touch with Google.

What you need to do as a developer

As an app developer, there are a few simple things you can do to take advantage of this new functionality and make sure that it works in your apps:

Test your app and annotate your views if needed

In many cases, Autofill may work in your app without any effort. But to ensure consistent behavior, it is recommended providing explicit hints to tell the framework about the contents of your field. You can do this using either the android:autofillHints attribute or the setAutofillHints() method.

Similarly, with WebViews in your apps, you can use HTML Autocomplete Attributes to provide hints about fields. Autofill will work in WebViews as long as you have Chrome 61 or later installed on your device. Even if your app is using custom views, you can also define the metadata that allows autofill to work.

For views where Autofill does not make sense, such as a Captcha or a message compose box, you can explicitly mark the view as IMPORTANT_FOR_AUTOFILL_NO (or IMPORTANT_FOR_AUTOFILL_NO_EXCLUDE_DESCENDANTS in the root of a view hierarchy). Use this field responsibly, and remember that users can always bypass this by long pressing an EditText and selecting "Autofill" in the overflow menu.

Affiliate your website and mobile app

Autofill with Google can seamlessly share logins across websites and mobile apps ‒ passwords saved through Chrome can also be provided to native apps. But in order for this to work, as an app developer, you must explicitly declare the association between your website with your mobile app. This involves 2 steps:

Step 1: Host a JSON file at yourdomain.com/.well-known/assetlinks.json

If you've used technologies like App Links or Google Smart Lock before, you might have heard about the Digital Asset Links (DAL) file. It's a JSON file placed under a well known location in your website that lets you make public, verifiable statements about other apps or websites.

You should follow the Smart Lock for Passwords guide for information about how to create and host the DAL file correctly on your server. Even though Smart Lock is a more advanced way of signing users into your app, our Autofill service uses the same infrastructure to verify app-website associations. What's more, because DAL files are public, third-party Autofill service developers can also use the association information to secure their implementations.

Step 2: Update your App's Manifest with the same information

Once again, follow the Smart Lock for Passwords guide to do this, under "Declare the association in the Android app."

You'll need to update your app's manifest file with an asset_statements resource, which links to the URL where your assetlinks.json file is hosted. Once that's done, you'll need to submit your updated app to the Play Store, and fill out the Affiliation Submission Form for the association to go live.

When using Android Studio 3.0, the App Links Assistant can generate all of this for you. When you open the DAL generator tool (Tools -> App Links Assistant -> Open Digital Asset Links File Generator), simply make sure you enable the new checkbox labeled "Support sharing credentials between the app and website".

Then, click on "Generate Digital Asset Links file", and copy the preview content to the DAL file hosted on your server and in your app. Please remember to verify that the selected domain names and certificates are correct.

Future work

 

It's still very early days for Autofill in Android. Google is continuing to make some major investments going forward to improve the experience, whether you use Autofill with Google or a third party password manager.

Some of our key areas of investment include:

Autofill with Google: Google wants to provide a great experience out of the box, so they include Autofill with Google with all Oreo devices. Google is constantly improving our field detection and data quality, as well as expanding our support for saving more types of data.

WebView support: Google introduced initial support for filling WebViews in Chrome 61, and we'll be continuing to test, harden, and make improvements to this integration over time, so if your app uses WebViews you'll still be able to benefit from this functionality.

Third party app support: Google is working with the ecosystem to make sure that apps work as intended with the Autofill framework. Google urges you as developers to give your app a spin on Android Oreo and make sure that things work as expected with Autofill enabled. For more info, check out the full documentation on the Autofill Framework.

Tags: google, autofill, chrome, android