There was a time when it was almost normal to find out that people had two phones in their possession. The need to keep personal and professional lives separate on that level still exists in this age of dual SIM phones, especially since apps don’t always support handling multiple accounts. Different manufacturers have applied different and inconsistent implementations, but it seems that Google is laying the groundwork for having multiple copies of some apps installed on the same Android user profile.
There are times when you want to use the same app or service but for different accounts or use cases. Some apps like Twitter, Gmail, and Telegram support the ability to log into and switch between different accounts. Most, however, don’t, and sometimes users have to look for workarounds to get what they want, often by installing a third-party and sometimes potentially harmful app.
Manufacturers like Samsung, OnePlus, and Xiaomi have “Dual Messenger” features that are limited to a specific set of messaging apps. Some have a sort of secure mode or folder, where they can run separate copies of any installed app, but they have to authenticate each and every time they switch between apps. Finally, Android itself has support for a separate “work profile,” which is complicated to set up and use.
XDA’s Mishaal Rahman discovered hints about a “Clone profile” in Android 12, something that could enable app cloning on an OS level rather than resorting to workarounds. Even better than existing solutions, it might even support having three instances of the same app rather than just two. This could finally put an end to one OEM modification and make those custom Android experiences a bit lighter and easier to upgrade.
Unfortunately, a lot of this Clone profile functionality is still shrouded in mystery and isn’t even working properly. It could simply be the foundation for a future Android future that will hopefully make it easier for users to juggle their digital personas and roles on the same phone.