Learn Android Development For Beginners

Content Provider

Content Providers are one of the primary building blocks that let you share data between applications. Mostly the content provider saves data in the SQLite database or in flat files at backend. It is the wrapper around the data and Android allows application to expose data source through Content Provider.

Use content provider if you need to share data between the multiple applications. If you don’t need to share data among multiple applications then you can use a database directly via SQLite Database.

You might have question in your mind that we can directly query database to get the data. But the answer is you can’t. A SQLite database is private to the application that creates it. It means the one application cannot access the database of other application. Any application can share the data source to other application via Content provider. Content provider is a convenient way to share data with the other application based on structural way.

Android’s Built-in Providers

Android has many built in content providers, which are available in the android.providerjava package. Following are the some built-in content providers.

  • Browser
  • Call log
  • Live Folders
  • Contacts Contract
  • Media Store
  • Settings

Android provides a way to access the built-in content provider in your application. You can perform basic CRUD (Create, Read, Update and Delete) operations on the content providers.

Android also provides a way to create your own content provide by inheriting your class from ContentProvider class. This chapter does not cover how to create your own content provider. We will learn about it later.

How to Access Content Provider

Any application can access the data from the Content provider using ContentResolver client object. The ContentResolver class provide methods to perform basic CRUD (create, Read, Update and Delete) opertations. This mechanism provides an abstraction from the underlying data source and provides standard interface to get data in one application with code running in another application.

Each application Context has a single ContentResolver, that is accessible uing the getContentResolver() method.

ContentResolver contentResolver = getContentResolver();

The Context object should always be available, since the Activity and Service classes are inherited from Context class and getContentResolver() method is always available there.

If you are not directly working in Context for example in the Fragment then first get the activity object using getActivity() method and call the getContentResolver() method to get ContentResolver object.

ContentResolver contentResolver = getActivity().getContentResolver();

The ContentResolverprovides following methods for CRUD operations.

  • query(Uri, String[], String, String[], String) returns all the data.
  • insert(Uri, ContentValues) inserts new data into the content provider
  • update(Uri, ContentValues, String, String[]) updates existing data into the Content Provider.
  • delete(Uri, String, String[]) deletes data from the content provider

URI is the important parameter that is being used in all the methods.

Content Provider URIs

It is the most important concept to understand when dealing with Content provider. The methods of ContentResolver require URI. The URIs for content providers looks like this


The URI contains four parts.

1. Scheme to Use: For content providers the scheme is always “Content”. The “://” is a separator for authority and scheme.

2. Authority: It is the unique for every content provider and it should have same naming convention as the java package. e.g. the Authority name for the Contact Content Provider is “com.android.contacts”.

3. Optional Data Path: The optional data path is used to distinguish the data provided by content provider. E.g. ,mediastore content provider distinguish audio, video and images files using different data paths for each of these media types.

4. Optional Id: it is normally used to get the single record. id must be numeric if passed. E.g. if you want to access specific image file.

Almost all ContentResolver methods takes the URI as parameter, that indicates which content provider it want to access. The URI for reading all contacts is given below.


In above URI the “com.android.contacts” is the authority and “contacts” is the optional data path.

Content Provider Access Permission

For accessing the Content Provider the application has to request for specific permissions in manifest file. For example if application requires permission to Get, Add, Update and Delete Contact, add the “uses-permission” tag in the manifest file. The contact content provider requires “READ_CONTACTS” permission to retrieve data from it and “WRITE_CONTACTS” permission for Inserting, Updating and Deleting data.

<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.READ_CONTACTS"></uses-permission>

<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.WRITE_CONTACTS"></uses-permission>

Example to Access Contacts using Contact Content Provider

Querying data is most common operation which often used in application. In this example we will user contact provider to get all the contact from your android mobile. Before implementing this example makes sure you have some contact added in your mobile device or emulator (Android Virtual Device). If not then first add some contacts in your device.

Create a new project in Android Studio and name it “Contact Viewer”. Open the AndroidManifest.xml file and add the “uses-permission” tags to get the Read contact permission. The xml of AndroidManifest.xml will look like this.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<manifest xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    android:versionName="1.0" >

        android:targetSdkVersion="19" />

        android:theme="@style/AppTheme" >
            android:label="@string/app_name" >
                <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />

                <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" />

    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.READ_CONTACTS"></uses-permission>


After getting the permissions in AndroidManifest.xml, now set the UI for the application. Add the two Buttons and TextView to show the Contacts in the layout file. The XML of layout file is below.



            android:id="@+id/btnContact" />

            android:text="Contacts With Phone"
            android:id="@+id/btnContactWithName" />

        android:text="Click button to load contacts."



In this example Layout file is a Fragment’s Layout and we will also write code to fetch the Contacts using contact provider in the Fragment.

In the code file the btnContact button fetches the data from Contact URI and the second button btnContactWithName fetches the data from the Phone URI. In the onCreateView method of the fragment, set the Layout file and register the click events for the both buttons.

  public static class PlaceholderFragment extends Fragment {

        public PlaceholderFragment() {

        public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater, ViewGroup container,
                Bundle savedInstanceState) {
            View rootView = inflater.inflate(R.layout.fragment_main, container, false);

            Button btnContact = (Button)rootView.findViewById(R.id.btnContact);
            Button btnContactWithName = (Button)rootView.findViewById(R.id.btnContactWithName);

            btnContact.setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
                public void onClick(View view) {


            btnContactWithName.setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
                public void onClick(View view) {


            return rootView;



Get Contacts

For getting all the available contacts call the query method of the ContentResolver class. The parameters of the query methods are

query(URI uri, String[] projection, String selection, String[] selectionArgs, String sortOrder)

URI indicates which content provider you need to access. Projection is the names of columns that you want to get. Selection is used for filtering the records SelectionArgs are values that replaces “?” sign in Selection parameter. sortOrder is used for sorting records

getContacts method returns the Cursor to fetch data one by one. See the code of method below.

 private Cursor getContacts() {

     // Get URI
     Uri uri = ContactsContract.Contacts.CONTENT_URI;

     // Set the columns that you want to get from that
     String[] projection = new String[] { 

     // Set Where clause
     String selection = ContactsContract.Contacts.IN_VISIBLE_GROUP + " = '" + ("1") + "'";

     String[] selectionArgs = null;

     String sortOrder = ContactsContract.Contacts.DISPLAY_NAME + " COLLATE LOCALIZED ASC";

     ContentResolver cr = getActivity().getContentResolver() ;
     return cr.query(uri, projection, selection, selectionArgs, sortOrder);



Get the contact providers URI using the ContactsContract. Contacts.CONTENT_URI and the set the name of columns that you want to get in projection variable. The ContactsContract.Contacts._ID, ContactsContract.Contacts.DISPLAY_NAME are the constants that contains the column name. Similarly also assign values to other variables those are required for query method.

Get the ContentResolver using getActivity().getContentResolver() statement and call the query method that returns the Cursor to read record one by one.

The LoadContacts method gets the Cursor using getContact method, read all records one by one and appends it into the TextView control that is available on the layout.

 private void LoadContacts()
    TextView contactView = (TextView) getView().findViewById(R.id.txtContacts);

    Cursor cursor = getContacts();

    while (cursor.moveToNext()) {

        String displayName = cursor.getString(cursor

        contactView.append("Name: ");




The cursor.moveToNext() return true if it has next record otherwise it returns false. For getting the data for the any column first get the index of the column using cursor.getColumnIndex(ContactsContract.Data.DISPLAY_NAME) and then get the data according to type using getString(), getFloat() etc methods. Now the output of the program will look like this.

Get Contacts with Phone No

Contact Content Provider provides some other URIs to get some extra data. The ContactsContract.CommonDataKinds.Phone.CONTENT_URI returns the data with phone number. Add the ContactsContract.CommonDataKinds.Phone.NUMBER column in the projection and set the selection and sortOrder parameters accordingly.

 private Cursor getContactsWithPhone()
   Uri uri = ContactsContract.CommonDataKinds.Phone.CONTENT_URI;
   String[] projection = new String[] { ContactsContract.Contacts._ID,

   String selection = ContactsContract.Contacts.HAS_PHONE_NUMBER  + " = ?";

   String[] selectionArgs = new String[]{ String.valueOf(1)};

   String sortOrder = ContactsContract.Contacts.DISPLAY_NAME + " COLLATE LOCALIZED ASC";

   return getActivity().getContentResolver().query(uri, projection, selection, selectionArgs, sortOrder);

After getting the Cursor iterate the record one by one and get the information for each column using getString() method of the cursor.

 private void LoadContactsWithPhone()
    TextView contactView = (TextView) getView().findViewById(R.id.txtContacts);

    Cursor cursor = getContactsWithPhone();

    while (cursor.moveToNext()) {

        String displayName = cursor.getString(cursor

        String phoneNo = cursor.getString(cursor

        contactView.append("Name: ");

        contactView.append("Phone: ");



The out of the above code will look like this.

In the next chapters later we will learn about how to create our own content provider and how can we perform Insert, update and delete operations later.

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