Android 11’s revamped screen recorder may soon support recording internal audio
The first few Android 10 Developer Previews had a barebones screen recorder in SystemUI, but the feature was inaccessible to users at release. With the first Android 11 Developer Preview, however, the screen recorder became accessible from a Quick Settings tile. Now in Android 11 Developer Preview 2, the screen recorder has a revamped UI that informs the user about the possibility of recording sensitive info and lets the user choose if they want to record audio from the microphone and/or show taps on the screen. However, there’s currently no way to record the audio that’s playing back on the device, but that could change in a future preview release.
Left to right: Screen Record Quick Setting tile, Screen Record dropdown options, new Screen Record countdown, and new Screen Record status bar indicator.
New strings have been added to SystemUI in Android 11 pertaining to the Screen Record function. These strings suggest you’ll be able to record “sound from your device, like music, calls, and ringtones.”
<string name="screenrecord_device_audio_and_mic_label">Device audio and microphone</string>\n<string name="screenrecord_device_audio_description">Sound from your device, like music, calls, and ringtones</string>\n<string name="screenrecord_device_audio_label">Device audio</string>
This text is currently not visible in the Screen Record feature, and there is no indication of the ability to record internal device audio in any of the three classes responsible for screen recording in Android 11: RecordingController, RecordingService, and ScreenRecordDialog. Android 10 made it possible for applications to record the audio from other applications with the AudioPlaybackCapture API. In fact, there are already third-party applications on the Google Play Store that take advantage of this API to let you capture the video and audio from your device. I tested the revamped Screen Recorder feature in Android 11 DP2 just to be sure it didn’t support recording internal audio, and it sadly still only supports recording audio from the microphone. To test for yourself, try starting a screen recording and then open a video in Google Photos while talking aloud—if you can hear yourself talking over the video in the screen recording, then it’s most likely recording audio from just the microphone. I, of course, compared this result against the third-party app I mentioned that uses the API.
Assuming Google does allow you to record internal device audio in a future Android 11 preview, I’m not so sure it’ll actually be that useful. While apps that target Android 10 default to allowing their audio to be captured by apps using the AudioPlaybackCapture API, apps that target Android 9 Pie have to opt-in by enabling the allowAudioPlaybackCapture flag in their Manifest file. Audio can also only be captured if it’s declared as type media, game, or unknown. System applications, such as SystemUI, are also able to record audio from apps even if their audio capture policy is set to ALLOW_CAPTURE_BY_SYSTEM, but they aren’t also allowed to save the audio if this is the case.
Since Screen Record is contained as part of “com.android.systemui” and not “com.google.android.systemui,” that means this feature is likely going to become part of AOSP. Thus, devices from other smartphone makers should be able to enjoy this feature once they upgrade to Android 11, unless of course the OEM already has a comparable or better screen recorder. A lot of OEM screen recorders let you change the resolution, bitrate, and frame rate of the recording, so Google’s is still pretty barebones even if they add the ability to record the internal device audio.