Grokking Android

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty of Android Development

Checking Intent Availability in Android

By 5 Comments

Intents are probably Android’s most powerful tool. They tie together loosely coupled components and make it possible to start Activities that are not part of your own app. Using intents you can delegate to the Contacts app to select a contact or you can start the browser, share data and so on.

The receiving apps declare intent filters which describe the intents its component react to. If you know which intent filters the app provides and if the components are publicly available you can start any Activity of any app on the users device.

The problem is: How do you know if the app is installed – if you can use the Intent?

The solution is to create the Intent and check if it is available:

public static boolean isAvailable(Context ctx, Intent intent) {
   final PackageManager mgr = ctx.getPackageManager();
   List<ResolveInfo> list =
   return list.size() > 0;

This solution is based on Romain Guy’s implementation on Android’s developer blog, which he originally posted on his blog. Lars Vogel has published a similar solution. Alas, the original code does not work – at least not in all circumstances.

The difference between +Romain Guy’s and +Lars Vogel’s code and mine is the intent used to determine the correct package. While Romain and Lars create a new Intent based solely on the action used (e.g. ACTION_SHARE), the code above uses a fully-fledged Intent object. Ideally it’s the one, that you would also use to start the Activity.

But does this make a difference? It does indeed. I noticed that the original code has issues when I wanted to use ACTION_SEND. In this case the PackageManager returns an empty list if you only use the action. The problem is the missing mime type. If you add the mime type and use my variant, the PackageManager returns a list of applications that can be used. On the original blog entry +Alexey Volovoy also mentioned this problem in a comment a while ago.

Another solution is by +Reto Meier. He uses the Intent object itself to check if an Activity is available for this object. He uses the Intent’s method resolveActivity(). You can find the full solution in his book.

So I assume my approach with using the Intent object itself is sound. But Romain and Lars are very experienced and renowned Android developers, Romain is even on the Android team. So it might very well be that I miss something. If you know any circumstances, where my solution would run into problems or where the original proposal works better, please let me know in the comments section.

Update: Lars Vogel has updated his tutorial.

Wolfram Rittmeyer lives in Germany and has been developing with Java for many years.

He recently shifted his attention to Android and blogs about anything interesting that came up while developing for Android.

You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Checking Intent Availability in Android”

  1. Looking good. I adjust my tutorial under

  2. Why not to use Romain’s soultion which is shorter and thus more elegant and like you mentioned Romain is in Android devs team so its better to foolow him on this? Also:

    1. Wolfram Rittmeyer

      As I have mentioned, Romain’s solution falls short for certain types of intents that require more than just the action. You might think there’s an intent available, while in reality there’s not.

      The G+ solution is basically the same as what I have suggested to use and differs from Roman’s in important ways. They use just another method of the PackageManager than I did.

      1. Alexander Madani

        Great work Wolfram. I prefer your Blogs to many others. Clear and easy to follow English, with great examples of what you are talking about.

        This Blog has been an inspiration to me on my App “EZ Notes” because I utilise many specific intent calls for achieving a kind of “cross App” compatibility effect and empowering my users with more capabilities.

        You’re definitely one of the (if not the) best Bloggers that I enjoy reading.

        Keep up the great work sharing and helping the Development community with your awesome knowledge and passion.

        Sincerely Yours
        Alexander Madani
        Developer of “EZ Notes”

        for Android ultimate mobility!

        1. Wolfram Rittmeyer

          Thanks, Alexander. Glad you like my blog. Hope EZ Notes progresses well!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You can also subscribe without commenting.